This Activist And Cannabis-Friendly Mom Fears That 'We Are Sliding Back Into Prohibition'

For several years after Debby Goldsberry’s daughter was born, the long-time cannabis activist woke up every morning fearing the worst.

“It was very frightening to be a parent in the cannabis industry at that time. A lot of cannabis advocates back then were actually delaying having children because the feds were raiding one dispensary a week back then... and if you got arrested, they could take your kid,” says Goldsberry, who was running the Berkeley Patients Group in Berkeley, CA at the time of her daughter’s birth in 2003.

“I had to live the first two years of her life not knowing if she was going to be taken by the government because I was a medical marijuana advocate. It was nightmarish.”

It was a nightmare the likes of which Goldsberry – a 30-year vet of cannabis advocacy who co-founded and directed Americans for Safe Access, the Medical Cannabis Safety Council, and Cannabis Action Network – never imagined she’d have to live through again once Barack Obama was elected President of the United States in 2008.   

With Obama-era initiatives like the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment and the Cole Memo, “medical marijuana in states that were legal was allowed to flourish”, recalls Goldsberry. 

“We all felt great. The fear had dissipated ... We were able to go ahead with our business of helping people,” says Goldsberry, the current executive director of Magnolia Wellness in Oakland, CA.

That all changed in January, when the Trump administration came into power. As Attorney General Jeff Sessions continues his efforts to curb cannabis legalization in the United States, Goldsberry finds herself having disturbing flashbacks.

“I can’t even believe we have to go back to where we were 10 years ago ... We are sliding back into prohibition,” she says. “We’re all here wondering: what’s going to be next? Are they going to come after our children?”

In the Goldsberry household, Debby isn’t the only one experiencing a fresh slate of anxieties. Goldsberry’s daughter, now 13, has never been a huge fan of cannabis, claims Goldsberry, “because of prohibition and how it impacted her childhood.”

“Despite the risks, I have to continue to work. Try explaining that to a child,” says Goldsberry.

“She sees [cannabis] as the thing that made us fearful for almost her entire life, the thing that could have put me in jail or have her taken away ... because of the politics around it.”

All that said, Goldsberry describes cannabis as “kind of a miracle” for parenting itself – and she’s far from the only American parent who thinks so. A poll conducted by Civilized in 2016 found that 51 percent of cannabis users surveyed had children under the age of 13, while 27 percent had children between 13 and 17. Another more recent study found that many new parents in the U.S. continue to consume cannabis after having kids.

Personally, Goldsberry says cannabis has “helped [her] parenting enormously."

“Cannabis is my medicine. I use it so I can feel better and live my full life,” says Goldsberry, who uses cannabis for insomnia and stress. “I’m not sure I would get a full night’s sleep without it, and I have to have that sleep in order to parent my child.

“Marijuana also helps me organize my thoughts. It’s in charge of the file cabinet in your brain and files away your fears and anxieties so they’re not the No. 1 thing on your mind.”

Knowing all this – along with the growing science behind cannabis – makes it all the more frustrating to Goldsberry that her country is “going in the wrong direction” in terms of legalization.  

“When the truth is that marijuana is a medicine, when the truth is that the voters voted for it and still the government comes after the people doing the work of the people, that’s a crime. We can’t let that happen,” says Goldsberry. “It’s the government’s job to use facts and science when they make decisions, and [Jeff Sessions] simply isn’t doing that. Going after medical marijuana is a crime. Implementing medical marijuana laws? That’s democracy.”

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As medical marijuana continues to gain ground across the US, more and more colleges are adding cannabis to their curriculum. In fact, more than half of America's pharmaceutical schools (62 percent) now teach students about medical marijuana according to a new survey conducted by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Pharmacy. "With more states legalizing medical marijuana, student pharmacists must be prepared to effectively care for their patients who may use medical marijuana alone or in combination with prescription or over-the-counter medications," the study's authors wrote.