Tune into our "Year on Pot" special: Friday, Feb. 6 at 10 p.m. ET
For the first six months of her new job, Brittany Driver was pretty sure Child Protective Services was going to show up at her door.
As the pot and parenting columnist at The Denver Post, the 29-year-old is part of the paper's new cannabis beat, the first ever at a mainstream American news outlet. Driver has no background in the pot industry or in writing. She was watching "The Colbert Report" in December 2013 when the Post's new pot editor announced he was hiring a pot critic. Driver's husband suggested she apply.
Driver wasn't sure how to prove her qualifications for the position. Her 9-to-5 jobs in customer service, retail and reception work didn't seem the most relevant. So, she simply detailed her history of marijuana use:
Deterred by "reefer madness" until age 15 or so
Regular user by age 20
One time she was sick with grief after the death of a close friend and discovered that pot helped her eat
These days, she tokes up most nights after her toddler son goes to bed
Driver got the gig, as both a freelance reviewer of pot strains and a freelancer adviser of parents who like to get high. Her first column was just a callout: Where are all the weed-smoking moms?
"Because I can go to the playground and see two moms connect and say, 'Hey, we'll go have wine at the place around the corner,'" she said. "It's not as usual to go there and say, 'Hey, do you want to go smoke a joint after the kids go to bed?' People don't really talk like that yet.'"
Since that first dispatch, Driver's coverage topics have varied from whether you should worryabout pot-infused edibles showing up in your kid's Halloween bag (not really) to the rights of Colorado's pot-smoking parents – in case Child Protective Services does come knocking.
"[CPS is] in just as much of a gray area as everybody else at this point," she said.
Sometimes, she offers specific guidance to pot-smoking mothers who write in. When we spoke, she had most recently advised a woman whose boyfriend didn't want her to smoke now that they had a baby.
And with each column she publishes, she battles the stigma of being a parent who gets high. Some people complain that cannabis can make a person lazy, but for Driver, it's the opposite. Cannabis — or writing about cannabis — has given her a new focus and ambition in life.
"There weren't a ton of moms, females in general, stepping out and saying, 'Hey, I smoke weed. I'm fine. I'm intelligent. Nothing's wrong with me,'" she explained. "I kind of thought, 'Well, if I have the opportunity to do that, I should.'"
Driver has dealt with some backlash, but it hasn't been from the anti-cannabis crowd. Instead, it's stoner guys, she said, who fling the most criticism.
"People who aren't parents that smoke weed," she said, "and who don't think that women or mothers should be smoking weed."
Driver is adamant that her casual habit isn't hurting her son. But she does believe there's a proper etiquette for pot-smoking parents, recounting a recent barbecue where people were smoking joints and dabbing inside, while kids were running around.
"There is an appropriate way to do it around children, and especially when you're around other people's kids," she said. "I don't want my son to mimic somebody smoking a joint. So I don’t smoke joints in front of him."
Driver said the greatest challenge of the job is simply coming up with topics; at the end of the day, she doesn't think she's a whole lot different from a mom who doesn't smoke. But she's glad to be a pioneer in bringing this subject into the mainstream. She's proud that if someone asks Google whether it's OK to smoke weed and breastfeed, she's a top hit.