October 4, 2023

Some parents use cannabis. Should they discuss it with their children? Here’s what experts say.

Some parents use some form of cannabis.  Experts explain how to handle it with children.  (Photo: Getty; illustration by Victoria Ellis for Yahoo)

Some parents use some form of cannabis. Experts explain how to handle it with children. (Photo: Getty; illustration by Victoria Ellis for Yahoo)

As more states legalize cannabis, “marijuana mothers” are becoming the new “wine mothers.” Some parents keep their cannabis use a secret from their children, while others are open about it. As a dad who makes glass accessories for cannabis consumption, Mike Colavita tells Yahoo Life that he believes “transparency is key.” However, he is waiting until his children, now 5 and 11, are “a little older” to talk to them about his own drug use.

“I want them to hear it from me first,” he says. But he notes that since some of the parents of his children’s friends know about his cannabis use, it’s possible someone else is ahead of him.

There is little advice on how, when, and even if parents who use marijuana — legal or otherwise — should tell their children. But experts predict that will change.

“As cannabis use becomes more commonplace in our society, it will become similar to how we use, view and discuss alcohol,” says Dr. Peter Grinspoon, family physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and board member of Doctors for Cannabis Regulation.

In the meantime, here’s what experts recommend cannabis-using parents do.

Should parents talk to their children about cannabis use?

Grinspoon says he is “a big believer in being open and honest.” When parents tell their kids about their drug use, they “become a trusted partner and maintain…credibility,” he says. He adds that being transparent with children can also show “some vulnerability” and open lines of communication. This is important because “if they struggle later on, they’ll feel comfortable coming to you for help,” he notes.

For parents using cannabis for a medical condition under a doctor’s supervision, Grinspoon recommends being open about it, just like with any other drug. “This helps destigmatize [cannabis]. It will make it less interesting for them if a cracking old dad takes his meds,” he says.

If a child comes to a parent and asks about past or present drug use, Grinspoon says parents should never lie. “When they find out about your drug use that you’ve denied and realize you lied to them, your credibility is in tatters,” he says.

When should parents talk to their children about their cannabis use?

There is no magic age when parents should reveal their drug use. However, Grinspoon says it’s safe to raise the issue with kids “when they’re old enough to understand a nuanced message” or when a parent believes sharing this information “will help them navigate…peer pressure [and] other things that factor into their own decisions about whether or not to try cannabis, alcohol or other drugs.” This will normally be when children become teenagers, although they may bring it up earlier.

Before discussing the subject with their children, parents should make sure their children can understand subtle differences, including that a parent is now using cannabis but they should not or should not have used it as a teenager because it damages teen brains says Grinspoon.

If parents have made mistakes, including using cannabis as a teen, they should share it with their children, advises Dr. Lateefah Watford, a psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente. “Using your past behaviors and mistakes as warnings about the potential pitfalls can be a powerful tool,” says Watford.

How should parents tell their children about their cannabis use?

Watford says there is “no right or wrong” way of approaching this discussion “that suits every person and every situation”. Both she and Grinspoon emphasize the importance of honesty.

Grinspoon says that “the biggest risk is that of role modeling.” He tells Yahoo Life that he doesn’t think “modest cannabis use is dangerous for most adults.” However, if parents use cannabis, children may get the message “that it’s OK and … may miss the more nuanced memo that safety is age dependent.” that distinction. “Teenagers might think that if a parent uses cannabis, it’s okay for them to use the drug too.”

But he adds that “it’s not hypocrisy” for parents who, say, smoke weed or pop a gummy to put their kids down. Grinspoon says parents should explain that “it is a much riskier activity as a teen than as an adult, though he cautions against exaggerating the harm cannabis can cause to teens. As evidenced by the failure of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program, this approach can backfire and increase the likelihood that teens will take drugs.

A parent may not think twice about having a glass of wine in front of their children, but what about using cannabis? Grinspoon argues that as long as a parent is not “stoned out of their mind” or disabled, or in charge of “adult responsibilities” at the time, it is possible to model responsible cannabis use. However, Lea McMahon, an adjunct professor of psychology at Columbia College, a licensed professional counselor and chief clinical officer at Symetria Recovery, thinks there is a risk that using cannabis in front of children could have an adverse effect on them.

“By not doing it, you don’t run any risk,” she says, calling the decision to use cannabis privately a “no-brainer.” McMahon notes that parents who use cannabis for medical purposes may not have a choice about using cannabis with their children present, but says that “for those who have the luxury of choice … it’s a risk not worth it.” to take.”

How does the legality of cannabis affect the way parents should broach the subject?

Cannibals for recreational use by adults are legal in 21 states. Medicinal use of cannabis is legal in 38 states. That means cannabis use of any kind is still illegal in 12 states.

Grinspoon says that ideally, parents should always “be obedient.” However, Grinspoon believes that talking about cannabis being illegal can be an opportunity to teach children critical thinking skills. not equal to what is moral,” he says, noting that slavery and a ban on same-sex marriage were both legal at one point. Nevertheless, if parents use cannabis in states where it is not legal, Grinspoon advises them never to use cannabis around their children because of the risk of getting caught up with law enforcem

But even in states where cannabis is legal, Watford warns that “legality of cannabis use does not turn into a “black and white situation” that needs no further discussion. There are still concerns about responsible cannabis use, whether it is legal or not. “Legal status of the substance is not one of those variables that determines whether someone is using the drug responsibly,” she says. She notes that “some of the most addictive substances, such as nicotine and alcohol, are legal and easily accessible to adults. But that does not make the potential impact of using these substances any less dangerous than other substances.”

Ultimately, Watford says talking to kids about cannabis use is “a very personal decision that needs to be made by each individual.”

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