MONTREAL: Smoking cannabis has made me “a better mother,” says Karine Cyr. The mother of two leads a group of like-minded Canadian women challenging norms and rejecting stigmas around parenting and pot since Ottawa legalized its recreational use last October. They are tired, she says, of having to hide their use of the mind-altering drug from family, neighbors and others, and have set out to educate their peers about its benefits.

“People are not informed. They still think that when we use cannabis, we sit in front of our television eating pizza like teenagers,” Cyr says. “When I consume cannabis, I do housework, I play with my children. I am more patient with my children, more present. It helps me to be a better mother, a better person.” Doctors disagree. But her message has resonated with hundreds of members of her Des fleurs ma chere (Flowers my dear) Facebook group, which she created to share experiences and thoughts about pot.

The group includes “entrepreneurs, psychologists, models, photographers … they are women from all walks of life,” said “ganja yoga” instructor Cynthia Petrin, herself a member. Another similar Facebook group, “Mother Mary,” based in Montreal, has some 5,000 members. Sitting in her living room, the smell of marijuana lingering, Jordana Zabitsky, in her 30s, said she started “Mother Mary” in a bid to push back against “mommy shaming.”

“I’m expected to work full time. I’m expected to be with my kids full time. I’m expected to have a clean house. I’m expected to have my bills paid on time. I’m expected to have my winter tires on on time,” she says. “I have so much on my shoulders — I am only one person. The cannabis allows me to accomplish my daily tasks so much better!”

Canada’s health ministry warns parents against consuming cannabis because of the risks of second-hand smoke, while warning it also “may reduce a person’s ability to pay attention (to their child), make decisions or react to emergencies.” But Cyr argues that cannabis is a far better alternative than prescribed opioids or anti-depressants to treat anxiety or depression in new mothers. “Moms feel lonely and do not know where to turn. They feel ashamed and afraid,” echoed fellow pot proponent Annie-Claude Bertrand.