If you’re one of the millions of Americans now enjoying safe and legal cannabis, we couldn’t be more excited for you. You’re in great company—an overwhelming majority of Americans support the decriminalization of cannabis—and we’re confident that cannabis stands to play a genuinely positive and valuable role in the lives of millions more to come.
But if you’re a cannabis user and a parent, the speed of this cultural shift can make your head spin. How do we talk to children about responsible cannabis use—placing it in context as powerful medicine and as a legal intoxicant—without fanning the flames of kids’ curiosity before it’s safe and appropriate?
It’s not a simple question, but we find some approaches are more helpful than others. Above all, honesty is the best policy. Being open about your own use, about the health risks of cannabis on the developing brain, and the legal and cultural landscape can go a long way towards giving our kids solid, trustworthy information upon which they can make responsible and informed decisions.
1. Being True to Ourselves: Honest Talk About Your Own Responsible Cannabis Use
We like to hope that kids reflect our own family values (and we’re disappointed when they don’t), but research shows this to be true. Stating and reinforcing your own values creates a powerful message for your children, although it also has to be backed up by real-world action.
If you use cannabis yourself, it’s best to be honest and open about it (though this doesn’t mean using it in front of your children). Modeling honesty and openness about your own choices can have a lasting ripple effect.
Of course, this means you’ll have to devote some time to the question of why you choose to use cannabis. Even if your goals are purely recreational, putting some forethought to your choice means you can better explain its place in your life to your kids (and, as a side benefit, can help you focus your intentions to get the most out of cannabis).
Be prepared for confusion and even pushback. Your children may feel it’s unfair that you’re allowed to use cannabis, and they aren’t, for instance. Or they may be confused by the difference between the antidrug messages they receive through school and your own personal choices.
The more work you can do in advance to develop, maintain and communicate family values—and then keep those lines of communication clear and open—the better you’ll do at navigating this challenging, but ultimately rewarding conversation.
2. Marijuana’s Effect on the Brain of a Teenager
We’re just now beginning to discover—or rediscover—the incredible potential of cannabis, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best medicine for all populations and age groups. While cannabis shows great promise in treating epilepsy and other childhood conditions, most clinicians and researchers agree that before adulthood, THC poses a threat to brain development and cannabis (with the exception of THC-free strains and products) should be completely avoided. There are strains are high in CBD (a non-psychoactive cannabinoid), while having little to no THC. Most of these strains don’t produce the “high” typically associated with cannabis.
3. Cannabis and the Law
While cannabis is finding increasing acceptance in this country, it is still illegal even for medical use in many states, and—just as importantly—it has not been decriminalized at the federal level. This means that there’s an excellent chance that simply possessing cannabis can bring significant legal consequences. And even in states with full cannabis legalization, you must be 21 or over to use cannabis.
We hope this article has given you food for thought to help guide a dialogue about responsible cannabis use with your kids. We know it can be a challenging topic to broach, but we’re confident that approaching it with honesty and solid scientific grounding can help open the door to a more open, trusting and productive understanding about cannabis in your family’s life.