Being A 'Marijuana Mom' Is White Privilege In Action
I smoke pot. I am an almost-forty year-old white suburban housewife with three kids, three dogs, a picket fence, and a bong designed by none other than Snoop Dogg himself, which I find so aesthetically pleasing I can’t help thinking he absorbed some design principles while sharing joints with his bestie Martha. Pot is illegal where I live. It doesn’t matter. We get it from friends who get it from a Nearby Legal State. We don’t smoke around our kids. We don’t smoke when we’re the sole parent in charge of our kids. We don’t drive when we’ve smoked. Mostly, we treat the green stuff like wine that makes you want to eat more brie.
Social services is not coming for me. They have better things to do than snatch healthy children from a white mother who takes three bong hits once a week. At worst, I’d lawyer up (did I mention my best friend’s a lawyer, his other best friend’s a lawyer, and I know a lot of other lawyers?). They’d clear the charges because blonde-haired, blue-eyed women do not go to jail for using unless they’re playing “Weeds,” and even then, if they cry prettily about a dead husband on the stand (no red nose, white handkerchief, makeup intact), they’d probably get let go.
This essay is anonymous not because I care if everyone knows that I, personally, smoke pot, but because my husband demands plausible deniability. My friend [insert whitest of white girl names that isn’t Becky or Stephanie] and I used to joke that we could drive down Main Street in her minivan with our asses hanging out the window while we smoked a joint, and no one would stop us: white mom minivan privilege.
That expression’s racist as all fuck, and so’s the system that lets me get away with green just because I’m white.
BIPOC Parents Are More Likely To Have Their Kids Taken Away
If they do not live in a weed-legal state, BIPOC moms cannot smoke pot. End of story. They can’t tell their friends, “I smoked up last night.” They cannot keep marijuana in their homes. They cannot risk a little toke after dinner. I worry that I might get stupid with Play-Doh. They worry social services might beat down their door, and when social services beats down a BIPOC mom’s door, they don’t politely walk away.
In 2018, according to National Conference of State Legislatures, white kids made up just over 50% of the population — and 44% of kids in foster care. Black children were 13.71% of the overall population, but 22.75% of kids in the foster care system were Black. Alaskan Native and American Indian children are removed at double their rate in the overall population. In Chicago, says PBS, an almost unbelievable, but dismally believable, 95% of the children in foster care are Black. Simply put: BIPOC children are removed from their parents’ care more often than white children.
One 2015 study (the latest year for which numbers were available in this case) found that Black children were “6.2 times more likely to be involved in a report of abuse or neglect than white children, 7.8 times more likely to be involved a report found to be credible by the child welfare agency, and 12.8 times more likely to be placed in foster care.”
BIPOC Women Who Smoke Pot Get Into Serious Trouble
Take Jameelah’s case. In 2015, the state of New Jersey removed her newborn from the delivery room. They kept him for four days before handing him back, since he wasn’t in danger of what Social Services called “imminent harm.” Jameelah’s crime: she had tested positive for marijuana. Read that again. She hadn’t toked up in front of nurses. They hadn’t caught her smoking pot with a big ol’ pregnant belly in between contractions. No, Jameelah had only tested positive for marijuana. She had to attend actual, honest-to-God drug rehab, three days a week, to keep her son.
Rehab. For pot.
Ms. D faced a similar situation. Social services asked if she smoked pot. Because it was decriminalized in New York, because she never smoked in front of her children, and because “it never affected her ability to parent,” she told the truth. She found herself in court — and informed that she could only keep her kids if she entered a daily drug rehab program. She lost her part-time jobs, which put her family in danger of losing their housing. Her case dragged on for months.
They would never send my ass to rehab for marijuana.
The ACLU says that despite roughly equal usage rates, Black people are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested on marijuana charges than whites. In Iowa, D.C., Minnesota, and Illinois, Black folks were 7.5 to 8 times more likely to be arrested on pot charges. And the vast, vast majority of those arrests are for simple possession. One analysis showed that in 2020, Black people comprised a staggering 94% of all marijuana arrests in New York’s five boroughs. NORML goes on to cite more statistics, but they all boil down to this: if you’re Black, you should be pretty fucking scared of police arresting you on marijuana charges. If you’re white, don’t stress.
BIPOC moms cannot smoke pot. At least, if they do, they can’t say it in public. They stand to lose their children.
I might lose some time dealing with lawyers.
So when we talk about cannabis use, and marijuana moms, and isn’t it nice to relax with a joint, remember how much white privilege is shoved into those ideas. You might be able to smoke a joint in your backyard. Your BIPOC neighbor can’t. The entire show “Weeds” was not-so-subtly based on this premise. Mary-Louise Parker’s character could run a drug ring out of her McMansion, because white privilege. You’ve got it too. So check yourself and be mindful of what you have. You might be able to brag that you’re a marijuana mommy, but your BIPOC friend can’t. End of story.
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