Conversation with Cannamom of Color, Melanie Julion, HCHD

Melanie Julion, The Cannabis Doula, is a pioneer in cannabis-infused birth work and a testament of what can be accomplished when passion is combined with purpose. While mothering two babies of her own, she is actively creating new pathways for other mothers who seek to use cannabis as a wellness tool to enhance pregnancy, the birthing experiences and beyond. 

Melanie’s story begins with a series of personal experiences that prompted a wholistic approach towards her own life and profession. As a former cannabis cultivator and all-around scholar, she successfully applied her knowledge of its healing properties to assist with both of her pregnancies. With a degree in family social services, Melanie’s cumulative expertise and unique vision fills a massive void within our society.

The work of The Cannabis Doula advocates for natural, broad-spectrum healing, from the individual to the community. By sharing a recent life-threatening revelation, Melanie’s journey reminds us that full cannabis legalization is not a luxury but a right given to us by the very planet on which we live and breathe.

Image via Everyday Health

Tell us all about The Cannabis Doula and what prompted you to take this path?

The Cannabis Doula came about when I made the decision to advocate for myself as a mom who uses cannabis. I used it for a variety of reasons during pregnancy and while I was breastfeeding. I used it for childbirth as well. 

Also, In March of this year, I was diagnosed with cancer. It’s so common among women my age, and I didn’t know that.

I used to work as a grower at a cultivation center in DC, so I know about cannabis and cancer research. I actually had a friend that died from cancer so that made me choose to advocate for cannabis consumption too.

I’m so sorry you have to go through this. It’s heartbreaking.  When do you start treatment?

I’m hoping to start this summer. I’m trying to ween my son, and it’s taking a little longer than I thought. He just turned one. Once I ween him I will start my treatment. I’ll be using cannabis for the cancer and to help heal my thyroid too.

It’s extremely fortunate to live in a time where you have the option to use cannabis for your cancer treatment. Can you tell us more about your professional background in the legal industry?

I have a certification from the Cannabis Training University. I used to smoke recreationally before I had kids. That’s what inspired me to get into the cannabis industry in the first place. I wanted to learn more about the plant, how it affected our bodies and why was it illegal.

Image via the LA Times

How did you bridge the gap from cannabis to childbirth?

I worked at a cultivation center when I got pregnant with my first son. It was really hard labor. I couldn’t keep up so I ended up quitting and then I got my certification online. I got into birth work because I felt isolated being pregnant while working in the cannabis industry. Being a woman in the industry is tough but being a pregnant woman in the industry is even worse.

I had always been interested in health, healing and supporting families. I have a Bachelor Degree in Family Social Services so I was familiar with doulas. My pregnancy was the perfect time to jump into this line of work. I had a job doing intakes for a birth program and so many mothers talked about using cannabis. A lot of them felt bad about it and would ask me lots of questions. I really enjoyed talking to them about cannabis. Of course my job didn’t allow me to tell them certain things. It was against protocol.

As time went on I had another baby. It was a tough pregnancy and I had a lot of pain but cannabis really helped. They both were very fast, pain free births, under and hour. It was almost orgasmic and I think it was due to cannabis and other things I had done to help me prepare for birthing. It was a wake up call for me because I realized how beneficial cannabis was for both of my pregnancies and child birth.

Eventually I ventured out and started doing solo doula work. I started my own business offering doula services and childhood education but I still wasn’t openly advocating or combining cannabis with my doula work because it was just so taboo. You’ll rarely hear a doula say anything about cannabis because of our training and the organizations we are affiliated with. But just knowing about the research – I couldn’t continue to support moms, support cannabis and smoke everyday and not talk to moms about it. It felt like I was living a double life and not being completely honest with my clients if I couldn’t support them in the capacity that I wanted to. So I decided to be honest!

What was that like — stepping away from conventional to incorporate cannabis into doula work?

I really loved cannabis and I wanted to be in the cannabis industry but as a mom I felt so ostracized, a lot of moms do. It’s so crazy because cannabis has been traditionally used for healing women. It’s a weird taboo but I’m pretty confident, after talking to so many moms about their cannabis consumption, that they are more and more comfortable with using cannabis. They don’t really feel like cannabis harms them or their babies which goes to show they have that knowledge that cannabis was used in ancient traditional practices for women. I think some moms inherently know this. The only danger or harm we feel when using cannabis is the threat of our children being taken.

Very true. These are grave concerns and with good reason. Do you feel more vulnerable or concerned as a Black woman and mother who consumes cannabis?

It’s definitely more of a concern because I am Black. I’ve talked to so many mothers – White and Black – who have experienced the threat of their children being taken. There’s no doubt about it. Doctors will try to test you whether your White or Black but more than likely if you’re a Black mom who’s low income and giving birth they will try to test you and call child protective services. Even me: I was so paranoid that I would get locked up just for working in the cannabis industry while pregnant.

I think advocating for Black moms to use cannabis is so important. Cannabis has the potential not only to heal our bodies and our families, but it also provides the opportunity to bring income to our families. It can also help put an end to criminalization; that’s really a big thing.

I’m all about advocacy, but I understand the need to use caution. I look forward to the day more moms feel free to speak about their cannabis consumption.

We really need to reprogram our minds on what cannabis is and what it isn’t. The propaganda has been against Black people specifically using cannabis. I had to go back and do the research about Africa and ancient uses of cannabis. We’ve been using this plant and known of the many ways it can heal our bodies for centuries. I think outlawing cannabis has done so much harm to our families and communities. It directly ties to birth work in so many ways. The outlawing of midwives who used herbs for women during pregnancy directly relates to Black women and maternal mortality rates which are extremely high compared to White women.

What types of services do you provide your clients?

I provide birth services and support during childbirth, pregnancy and, postpartum. I provide support with breast feeding and education as well. I help moms talk to their doctors and offer additional support in finding a doctor if they need one.

On the cannabis side, if a mom is interested in using cannabis during pregnancy or childbirth, I make an assessment to decide what type of cannabis would be best for her based on her symptoms, needs, diet, and lifestyle. I pick a strain and incorporate it into topicals, oils edibles or anything that she feels she needs. For example, if  she’s having severe nausea, I would make her an edible using CBD. CBD hemp is legal in all 50 states so this is something that many moms can have access to, depending on their location.

If a mom is interested in becoming a medical cannabis patient then I would help her through that process too. I can teach her how to make oils and edibles, nipple cream, I could go on and on because you can put CBD in anything. The opportunity for healing is endless.

The most important thing is providing education. Knowing the research behind cannabis, pregnancy and women’s health is really important when you’re talking to your doctor. Doctors have no training when it comes to the endocannabinoid system and cannabis in general. Some of them are just learning about it themselves. It’s important when you’re looking for a doctor to support you during pregnancy. Make sure they are knowledgeable and supportive of cannabis so they’re not calling CPS on you.

You mentioned feeling ostracized for being The Cannabis Doula in the past. With more progress towards legalization has that changed at all?

Things have gotten better.  A lot of doulas have reached out to me for advice on how to incorporate cannabis and support families who use cannabis. It’s been inspiring.

Last but not least, do you have any cannamom-specific advice to share? 

Learn about the endocannabinoid system and move your diet toward improving your endocannabioid system.

For moms who have had tested positive for THC after giving birth and have to go to court: Make sure you use language that suggests that you know the medical benefits of cannabis. Don’t say you smoke marijuana; say you consume medical cannabis and explain what you take it for. If you need research for whatever reason definitely reach out to me. I will supply people with research that supports women’s health and using cannabis during pregnancy.

I also want to encourage moms to speak out about how cannabis has impacted their lives. So many moms use cannabis so I hope we can cultivate an environment where we can be honest. I think it would be very healing for moms to embrace cannabis as a healing medicine for our bodies and our mental health. Encouraging moms to break that stigma is important for generations of Black people to come.

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