3 Canadian moms open up about cannabis

Removing the stigma one story at a time

As a parent, you don’t get to defer tough questions from your family—or about your family—to anybody else. It’s up to you. You’re captain.

Still, moms always seem particularly wise and steadfast when it comes to these situations—just the type of people you want at the helm.

moms who use cannabis

To fete Mother’s Day, we asked three Canadian moms to explain how they steer through unfamiliar waters when it comes to medicinal marijuana use, because the reality is, stigma still hangs heavy. Yet these strong, loving and vocal mamas are helping normalize medicinal cannabis prescriptions for both parents and children.

Reagan Repetski - Thornhill, Ontario

For Reagan Repetski and husband Alexander, medicinal cannabis has drastically changed their family’s life. The couple’s daughter, Gwenevere Leia, was diagnosed with catastrophic juvenile epilepsy at just three months old. “We’re still hoping for a further diagnosis through genetic sequencing, but this is what we have today,” Reagan says.

Before beginning her cannabinoid treatment in 2014, Gwen was having over 30 seizures a day. Now, she’s able to attend half days of junior kindergarten with assistance. “While she does not need to take a dose at school, they are aware of both her condition and cannabinoid therapy,” Reagan says.

Alexander now sits on a committee for the Canadian Epilepsy Alliance, which he notes has taken “great interest in this emerging treatment.”

How many children do you have?

Two, Damien Luke (6) and Gwenevere Leia (4). Gwenevere is the cannabis patient.

From a mom’s perspective, why is it important for people to understand medicinal cannabis isn’t a way to “get high”?

Cannabis has been the only thing to stop my daughter’s constant seizures. After failing nine traditional medications and having 30+ seizures a day, she has gone from a two-year-old who couldn’t walk and could barely sit up independently, to a four-year-old who is running and jumping. Cannabis IS medicine and has improved her quality of life by tremendous amounts.

What’s the most important thing you’ve taught your children about cannabis?

Gwen doesn’t understand, she’s non-verbal. Our son Damien Luke understands that cannabis oil is her medicine. As they both grow older this will surely be an interesting topic of discussion.

Have you experienced backlash from friends/family/peers/teachers about your prescription? And if so, what steps have you taken as a result?

As a result of how my husband has approached the explanation of medical cannabis, we’ve had little to zero backlash or people looking down upon our family. I attribute this to the factual information and logical arguments we’ve presented throughout our entire journey.

Kunval H. - Toronto, Ontario

For Kunval, there nothing curbed her son Zen’s intractable cerebral palsy, epilepsy and pain. That was until she gained a medical prescription for Zen, who she homeschools, in 2014 to treat the unpredictable seizures and manage pain.

Kunval warns that explaining the choice to medicate her child with cannabis hasn’t been easy—she’s faced scrutiny from family and peers—but she continues to champion cannabis since the health benefits and quality of life it brings Zen outweigh the criticism.

How many children do you have?

One, Zen.

What’s the most important thing you’ve taught your child about cannabis?

The most important thing I taught my child about cannabis is that it is medicine and not a drug.

Have you experienced backlash from friends/family/peers/teachers about your child’s prescription? And if so, what steps have you taken as a result?

Yes, we did experience backlash from family and friends. I started to advocate about the benefits of cannabis and also started to introduce cannabis to my friends and family for their medical conditions, and I guided them on how it can improve their health.

I also normalize cannabis in our household. I do not use anything else other than cannabis for treating all conditions, whether it is for cold, fever, epilepsy, anxiety. I have to say most of the people around me, who are taking pharmaceuticals have now successfully quit them and are taking some sort of cannabis for pain and medical condition management.

I think the best way to deal with backlash is to normalize cannabis in our own lives, and remove the stigma by informing others that it is a medicine, not a drug.

Stephanie Karasick - Toronto, Ontario

Knowledge really is power, and Stephanie Karasick proves it. Finding helpful and meaningful information about her new medicinal cannabis prescription was a challenge for the Toronto mother. So she took matters into her own hands, creating Strainprint, an app for patients to track their symptoms based on the cannabis strains they’re using from licensed producers in Canada. “I have acquired so much knowledge that people now come to me to ask for help getting started, and I'm very happy to be able to do so,” she says.

From a mom’s perspective, why is it important for people to understand medicinal cannabis isn’t a way to “get high”?

There's so much stigma that surrounds cannabis use. It's still predominantly thought of as a recreational thing. I have found that many people still think when you consume cannabis, it's to get high. Like so many other people, I use it to "get normal." To do things that most people take for granted. I rarely feel high. I do get to feel joy, in ways I had never been able to my entire life.

What’s the most important thing you’ve taught your child about cannabis?

That it's medicine. It helps many people and it needs to be used properly.

How long have you used it for medicinal purposes?

About three years. Prior to that, I had little knowledge about it.

What ailment do you use it for?

PTSD, and related symptoms (anxiety and depression).

Do you use it around your child/children?

Generally not in front of them, but they know that I vaporize it to feel better.

Have you experienced backlash from friends/family/peers/teachers about your prescription? And if so, what steps have you taken as a result?

Yes! Quite a bit. I've been shamed, accused of being a "pothead,” and my family has questioned my use many times. I used to be more discreet, but now I feel the need to be open and help de-stigmatize this amazing plant that gives so many people their lives back. It's a slow process, but I'm in it for the long haul.

I have taken my journey with cannabis very seriously. I created an app called Strainprint, so that people like me could get some guidance and understanding about which strains to use and how much.

Image by Public Domain Pictures.

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