Q&A: How one parent de-stigmatizes cannabis at home

With a certain herb-centric holiday just around the corner, what better time to talk about the recently legalized plant than now? With parents figuring out how to address the topic with their kids, we spoke with one progressive mother, Mskindness B. Ramirez, about how she speaks with her children—her 6-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son—about cannabis. Ramirez, 40, says cannabis is simply a part of her and her family’s lifestyle, but full disclosure, Ramirez is considered somewhat of an expert when it comes to using and promoting its medicinal qualities.

She’s the founder of the nonprofit Club Kindness, Inc., providing consumers, brands and dispensaries with information on how to use cannabis to improve health and wellness, is the creator of a line of low-dose cannabis products for women, Elixirs by Kindness, and as a former educator with a bachelor’s in psychology and master’s in education, has spoken at a number of Long Beach Collective Association events, a local organization with the mission to provide safe and legal cannabis access for residents.

Here’s how she approaches cannabis with her kids:

Did you have a plan for how you would talk to your children about cannabis before they were born?

Yes, I never had a doubt that it was going to be included in our lifestyle.

My son knows more about cannabinoid science than I’d say most adults. He will happily talk about his CBD use and how it helps him to stay focused in class, and he grows plants with us in our garden. We have fruits and vegetables and all herbs and he’s mindful of that. But he also knows that not everyone supports this lifestyle so we just don’t talk about it at school. And that’s it, I make it very simple for them. Both he and my daughter, they use the term “cannabis”, they talk about hemp and the difference between CBD and THC and why they cannot have THC.

I also talk to them about not smoking it until they’re adults in a very matter of fact way, just like alcohol. It’s just never been taboo and so they don’t really understand that concept.

What do you think would happen if they did talk about this lifestyle at school?

I know that particularly women of color have a higher rate of our children being taken from us or some sort of interception from [Child Protective Services] because the neighbor smells cannabis. We’re still dealing with this very real issue today, despite the fact that I have a masters degree, I’m a homeowner, I’m happily married, I have two healthy children, one phone call can really ruin your life. And I’m public with my brand and who I am, so some of my kids’ peers’ parents know what I do, and frankly some of them are my clients. But I just want [my kids] to know that they shouldn’t be there saying, “Oh, you know, the other day my mom was smoking a joint in the backyard…” that kind of dialogue, he understands, is not appropriate for public discussion.

When and how did you first introduce this to your kids?

It’s not something that I introduced necessarily like, “Here, let’s sit down and have a conversation about cannabis.” It’s a part of our lifestyle. When I’m smoking outside, I say, “Go inside” just like I would with cigarette smoke I wouldn’t want them to be inhaling that second-hand smoke.

Do you drink alcohol at home and do you treat it in a similar manner?

I actually do drink alcohol and I do not treat it in a similar manner because alcohol is far worse, and I make that very clear to my son. We talk about cannabis as a supplement, we talk about it as a vitamin and we talk about it as medicine. We do not talk about alcohol in that way. We talk about alcohol as an intoxicant that’s intentionally used to take the edge off and my son has seen, unfortunately, we’ve all seen, some incidents where there was too much alcohol involved and things go wrong, so we definitely do not frame them in the same way.

I know that’s what people are trying to do right now because we need to figure out how to get kids to not use it until a certain age; I think we need to present very real facts. I tell my son [how smoking] is bad for a developing brain, and your frontal lobe is not developed until 25 or 26; I need you to have all your health in order so that you can live your best life, and for that reason, you don’t want to be smoking cannabis. I’m very, very matter of fact.

I have said to him, if we were to come across a scenario in which you needed micro-dosing of THC as you got older, we can explore that, just like we would explore any other medicine. But it would be via edible form and in micro doses.

When your kids are older and their peers start to smoke; have you talked about that yet?

We talk about smoking in a very literal way. My daughter is very bossy, she has said she’s not going to use cannabis, it’s not her thing, she doesn’t like the way it smells, my son does like the way it smells, the total opposite. I see her telling her friends that smoking is bad for their frontal lobes. I hear her saying that in her little smart-ass voice. We talk about vaping as well because I’m more concerned about that than smoking because we just have no longitudinal studies, we haven’t seen positive results, I don’t think we should be breathing in propylene glycol into our lungs.

Have you ever rolled a joint in front of your kids?

All the time. They know what it is, they know not to touch it, our supplies are locked up. I’m lucky that I have some good friends in the industry so I get some nice products to keep my stuff in. They know what I do, they know that’s mom’s office, the door’s locked, but they’ve absolutely seen me roll a joint.

Mskindness B. Ramirez, Founder, CEO and Educator of Club Kindness in Long Beach. Wednesday, April 17, 2019. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

What was your experience with cannabis growing up and how did your family deal with it?

My father is a very conservative black man and he was in the military and former law enforcement. I was born in the late 70s, but I’m really an ’80s baby, so it was not something that was very positive. It was, in fact, very negatively framed. My dad compared people who used weed or cannabis to crackheads. It’s laughable now, right? But that was their view, that this is a drug that is causing damage in our community and it’s not something you should ever use.

My mom wasn’t as vocal about it, but she supported that view. She had a negative experience with her ex before my dad who was a heavy cannabis consumer.

Do your parents know that you partake?

Absolutely, so I have turned my parents all the way out. They are no longer the same people. My dad has made a 180, is actually a socio-equity applicant in the industry now.

I injured myself when I was 26 weeks pregnant with my daughter. I slipped and fell on a puddle and damaged my pelvis. So I hadn’t really been using cannabis prior to that on a regular basis, it was just a recreational thing; something I did at parties with friends. It wasn’t until this injury occurred that doctors wanted to write me all these prescriptions for opioids that I said no, let me find alternatives, and literally just googled “managing chronic pain” and cannabis was at the top of the list.

I’m a former classroom teacher, I’m naturally an academic, I started to do research—I mentioned how I question everything—and it was clear to me that we had been lied to. I obviously looked into the history, I figured out, wow, this is our birthright, we need this. I looked at the political history, I discovered why and how we replaced slavery, and just decided that everyone needed to know the truth.

So I started playing around with tinctures, created my own product and called my dad. He was the first call I made when I decided to file for a collective and I said, “Dad, I’m doing this and if I go to jail, you’re my first call.” And he said, “I know you’re smart, I see what’s going on in the world, and I support you.” And I turned him out with one little 5 mg. Kiva chocolate ball and he woke up the next day, he had no pain in his shoulder, he hadn’t slept that well in years, and the rest is history, for both my parents actually. My mom is a regular CBD user now.

Do you have any advice for older parents, those who experienced the war on drugs in the 70s, for example?

To that group I always say, “just google it”, literally.

I will talk about [cannabis] with anyone. If I’m in the grocery store and an older woman in front of me says her knee is hurting I will say to her, have you considered trying cannabis topicals on your knee? And they’ll say, “What’s cannabis?”, which is funny, right, and I say, “Marijuana” and they go, “Oh” and it always starts an amazing conversation. Just google it!

And Club Kindness is here for you, put that plug in there!

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I would want to encourage parents to look beyond the surface when it comes to what they’ve been told about cannabis. Do that for yourself and do that for your children.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

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Asia Morris has been with the Long Beach Post for five years, specializing in coverage of the arts. Her parents gave her the name because they wanted her to be a world traveler and they got their wish. She has obliged by pursuing art, journalism and a second career as a competitive cyclist.
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