With most states having some form of marijuana legislation on the books, and more adults using it openly for either recreational or medicinal purposes, the conversation around the once-illegal substance is rapidly changing. Marijuana patients and other legal users are often parents themselves, but whether you partake or not, these changes in the legal and social narrative call for new ways to discuss the drug’s benefits and potential risks, if any, with the children in your life.
According to an article posted on HuffingtonPost.com, “a policy of honesty is best” when it comes to talking to your kids, especially middle and high-school aged adolescents. This can be trickier with younger children, and the conversation may be difficult to navigate in any case. Luckily, there are tools available from government sources like Colorado.gov, as well as from nonprofits like the Drug Policy Alliance. DPA provides safety-focused drug education resources for parents and teens.
While many parents and educators remain fearful about the effects of marijuana on the brain, legal risks, and substance abuse, many of the preconceived notions about pot have been debunked. That doesn’t mean there are no side-effects. There is evidence it affects your short-term memory and may not be good for students whose brains are still developing. In addition, as reported in the New York Times, laws are applied unfairly, with African-Americans four times as likely as whites to be arrested for possession.
The Huffington Post says to explain this without using scare tactics, and Colorado’s “Help for Parents” page agrees parents should “listen carefully and stay positive” when discussing marijuana with their children. When it comes to older kids, you can discuss the War on Drugs’ legacy of social injustice and mass incarceration, as well as corporate opposition to the hemp industry from pharmaceutical and paper manufacturers
In many families, even young children already know about things like cigarettes, adult beverages, and prescription medication; if they are curious, it says in the Huffington article, it is probably okay to tell your children that it’s an “herbal cigarette” or a kind of medication prescribed by your doctor. This way, you aren’t asking them to keep a secret and you aren’t lying, either, keeping the conversation open so they can be honest with you if and when they ever try it.
Legalization has made it easier for people to be open about smoking marijuana, even with their kids. Staying informed about its legal status in your state and developments regarding medical use will help you navigate the delicate issues like risks and underage use so you can guide your children to make responsible choices, while letting them know that it’s often a safer alternative to alcohol and prescription drugs.