My parents were stoners – and I’m a parent who uses too

A mother shares her story of growing up around marijuana, and using marijuana now she is a parent herself.

Last week, The Spinoff Parents published a post from a mother who felt that having parents who were heavy cannabis smokers negatively impacted her childhood. You can read it here. We received a huge amount of feedback on that post, including this alternate view.

I grew up in small town Aotearoa. My mum was Māori, my dad Pākehā. They were hard working people. My dad was a freezing worker and a fisherman, a union man, a community advocate. Mum cooked, cleaned and sewed. She upheld tikanga Māori for us and was keen on Mahika Kai – traditional gathering of Kai Māori, which she involved Dad in too. They worked to live.

Mum and Dad were also constant marijuana users. It was part of the fabric of our lives.

In his younger days Dad bought and sold Buddha sticks, thick rolls of sticky buds, then just beginning to make their way into New Zealand from Thailand. Buddha sticks were pure and strong; they opened people’s minds in ways they had never dreamed of. As well the horizon-broadening experience of using marijuana himself, Dad benefited from the lifestyle the black market afforded him. He was an avid music lover, he loved cars and art and most of all conversation. He was a social connector with few rivals.

He and Mum joined forces towards the end of the seventies. She was a whānau-centred person with a special affinity for children. A lover of literature and the environment, she balanced some of Dad’s out-there tendencies. She shared his love of marijuana and they always smoked openly.

They kept house in a rambling old villa, which they bought when they were young and spent the next couple of decades renovating. They had a garden in which they grew flowers, fruit and veges for our table, and where they attempted to grow cannabis, an annual horticultural challenge. Our home had an open door policy, welcoming a constant stream of friends and family. It was always social; I learnt how to make coffee young. There was music from a old LP player, books, art, pets, parties and always lots of friends for kids to play with.

My parents maintained high parenting standards. I always had a family mealtime, a bedtime, a story before sleep. We had an arts and craft department (bottom shelf, kitchen sideboard), we had bookshelves, we had camping holidays and river swimming. And both my parents were there and present and having a good time.

I feel that their use of marijuana enhanced their parenting. It encouraged them to think outside the square, to value time spent with us, and to really open themselves to relationships at a deeper level. They were youths of the seventies, of post-colonial, post-war New Zealand – still a young country, and broadly unformed culturally. Marijuana encouraged them to seek out culture, and in turn expose me to a world as varied and rich as they could imagine.

I knew they were smoking but because it was so normalised in our whānau, I never differentiated between weed and tobacco smoking. My parents also drank alcohol. I always noticed when they were drunk. Growing up, alcohol had the worst impact on me and the people around me. Marijuana was something that made people happy and relaxed – got them laughing and talking. Alcohol did the same things, but then I often saw those same happy people degenerate into behaviour that was truly negative and sometimes abusive. My dad could get truly ugly on the piss. That intelligent, fair, well-mannered man could become racist and physically abusive with a bottle of rum in hand. I suppose alcohol and he didn’t mix well together, but I do believe we would have better off if he’d stuck to marijuana.

So life was not always happy hippies. I grew up in an unsheltered but safe home, with loving parents who respected and cared for me. They were generous, responsible people who led normal, tax paying, community-positive lives in small town New Zealand.

As an adult I have taken drugs. Marijuana first, before dabbling with other recreational drugs like LSD, ecstasy and mushrooms. I have never maintained a habit with anything but marijuana. It enhances my mood, relaxes my mind, and when I smoke I often have my best ideas – like writing this piece! I have chosen to keep my alcohol consumption minimal and social.

I have had a successful professional career so far. I’m a business woman with two great companies. I am active in my community and volunteer with two conservation trusts. I’m a Playcentre mum, a fundraising whizz; I’m a trusted friend and a conscious, loving parent.

My husband and I smoke cannabis several times a week. We keep it away from our kids, hidden in the garage and we don’t smoke openly around them. We’re not open about our marijuana use with many friends and family either.

I don’t think many people I know smoke weed. Though I wonder if maybe I’m wrong and they conceal their use just like I do. I think people would be genuinely surprised to learn that I am a cannabis smoker, which is sad because I know it opens my mind, makes me consider alternatives, stimulates my creative talent and helps me appreciate so much about life. Just like my cannabis-smoking parents did.

I feel that the huge stigma related to marijuana use in this country would harm my standing in the community and my business if I were campaign for the legalisation cannabis in New Zealand. I’d like to, and I may still do so as the legalisation movement gains momentum. For now I offer my opinion based solely on my own experience of being raised by good parents in a good home, one in which cannabis was smoked.

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