Outside a charming Beverly Hills apartment last week, I could hear the laughter and banter of girlfriends. I entered and was greeted with warm hellos and the smell of fresh tomato sauce and pan-seared chicken.
It was like dinner parties I've attended at the homes of girlfriends, only this one was slightly different. It was a pot party -- a cannabis consumption party, meaning the food was infused with or made with marijuana.
Our hostess -- Cheryl Shuman, 53, the self-proclaimed "Martha Stewart of Marijuana" -- runs a public relations firm. A medicinal marijuana user, she founded the Beverly Hills Cannabis Club and is an activist in the effort to legalize cannabis in this country.
She's also the mom of two lovely girls. A mom who uses pot? Shuman has taken that shock value and cleverly used it to further her cannabis crusade. She's convinced other marijuana-using moms to go public in an effort to change the image of the modern pot user from Spicoli -- Sean Penn's surfer character in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" -- to supermom.
Like many moms, they've struggled to achieve that perfect balance in life. Their kids range from age 10 to 30, they've all had successful careers, and they are articulate, beautiful and passionate about their cause. Many have battled cancer, chronic pain and crippling anxiety. They say that what got them to the other side and feeling normal and healthy again wasn't prescription medication but marijuana.
Their aim, they say, is not to get baked out of their minds but to take the edge off, remaining functional and checked-in -- especially as parents.
Of course, just as a parent might choose how many drinks to have around their kids, these moms are really the only ones who judge what the line is between stoned and just buzzed.
And make no mistake, just like any parent, these moms struggle with how best to educate their children on the delicate subject of drug use. Two of the moms have adult children who use -- one without a medical recommendation in a state where marijuana use is illegal. Another has a son who had a negative experience with pot, and the subject has become a source of tension between them.
But for their own use, the moms say they try to be responsible and healthy, choosing to vaporize the marijuana using small mechanical devices -- which look like large cigarettes -- that heat the cannabis just enough to make the THC (the stuff that gets you high) active but not so much that it produces harmful smoke.
They also create "edibles." At the party I attended, the menu was conceived by chef David Schanhals. It consisted of fettuccine and chicken with marinara sauce made from cannabis-infused olive oil, followed by strawberry shortcake. It looked delicious.
At several moments during the evening, I couldn't help but notice how happy -- and, yes, maybe a little giggly -- the women were. Perhaps it was only the pot, or maybe they were onto something.