Cannabis around your kids… what you need to know now!

Now that recreational marijuana use is as legal as alcohol in Canada, there’s likely to be a plume of smoke hovering above our heads. Especially when the novelty and hype is at its peak. In addition to the smoke, you may be blocking your nose as you walk down many streets, if you don’t like the skunk like smell that will permeate the air. Yes, times they are a changing.

As excited as many are about the changes, there are as many concerned about what is to come as a result. Many of those who are more concerned are parents. Especially those who have used the “its illegal” argument as one of the reasons they don’t want their children using.

But let’s be real. Will the new law really encourage kids who weren’t interested in weed before, to try it now? And will kids – many underage – who are using anyway, be inclined to use even more? My thinking is likely not. Kids who want to experiment – with alcohol or marijuana – don’t typically consider whether they are legally allowed to or not. One only has to look at the stats regarding the age at which children are experimenting to know that the legal argument hasn’t really held much weight.

In fact, the new law will likely impact parents more than their kids. As parents, we now have to consider how or if we are going to modify our relationship with weed, especially when the kids are around.

My advice is to use alcohol as your reference point. So, what are your views about offering a glass of wine or a beer to your underage child? How much alcohol do you consume when they are around? How does it impact your behaviour?

The bottom line is: what message do you want your child to get from you about any drug that has the ability to change your behaviour, mood and thoughts?

And furthermore, have you considered how you might respond to the question: “did you smoke marijuana before it became legal?”

If you say that yes, you did, then you are admitting to breaking the law. If you say no, but they believe that you have, especially when they smell it around you, then they’re likely not to trust you as much, and to think of you as a liar. If you too believe that honesty is the best policy, you might say something like “yes, I did occasionally, even though I knew it was against the law. I’m not proud about this.”

In regards to being honest about using at all – now or before – keep in mind that on one hand, a child who knows that his parent understands what it feels like to be high and is not totally in the dark about how to access it, might be more inclined to share personal experiences with them. However, if you tell them not to use at all, when they know you do, then you run the risk of being called a hypocrite! Most importantly, make sure that if you’ve been honest, that you model responsible use. For example, make sure that they know that you don’t smoke and then drive. As well, if you come home from a stressful day and say something like “I could really use a drink right now” or “I’m looking forward to getting high and forgetting all my problems” then you are modelling using a mind-altering substance to deal with your stress or pain. Consider how else you might want to deal with the stressors and especially what you say in front of your children.

And if your kids ask why it’s ok for you but not ok for them, it’s appropriate to discuss what you know about the developing brain to back you up.

In fact, just as you have likely stressed that just because alcohol is legal, does not make it safe to use – especially excessively or by everyone, and that there are limits and care that have to be exercised whenever using anything that has the potential to alter you, you can now include weed in that discussion.

It may also be a good exercise to get the kids involved in helping to educate the rest of the family (adults included) about the new law and about marijuana in general – dried, ingestible and oil, for example. A lively family discussion around the dinner table will have a greater impact on everyone rather than lecturing at kids about how unsafe marijuana is.

Learning from our kids (and other’s kids) is helpful, especially if you’re not using yourself, because they may know more than you.

I am really hoping that licensing marijuana use will create a safer world for our children (and us). Consider, for a moment, if you had the choice, whether you would prefer your child drink beer from the LCBO or a concoction that’s been created in someone’s garage. Implementing certain regulations will ultimately mean a cleaner, purer form of marijuana than many have been using.

The concern has and always will be – how do we educate our children about the impact of drugs on their bodies, especially their brains and how do we teach them how to think, not what to think, how to stand up and be their own person and not be influenced by their peers.

So, when parents ask me how soon is too soon to talk to their kids about marijuana, especially now that the laws have changed, my answer has not changed. I’ve always felt that with open communication, and no topic being off the table, integrating discussions about drugs, alcohol and sex into casual conversation is a good idea – at any age, but especially once they hit the double digits. Rather than a heavy sit-down talk about any of these topics, spring boarding from news stories into conversation – and even healthy debate – is very important. Try not to shut down any opinion from your children, no matter how provocative it is, because you might miss out on an opportunity to hear what they really think and what they’re up to.