It’s Time to Talk Pot

Dear Parents,
Parenting began to get a whole lot harder for parents in Colorado and Washington a few years ago. Adding to the typical parental concerns such as Internet and cellphone use, driving mishaps and alcohol consumption, the legalization of marijuana in those states has made access too easy.
Now the new parenting complication of monitoring marijuana use is shared by parents in several other states, as the trend to legalize pot continues to grow.
This is not just an issue for parents of teens. Parents with small children in these states now need to watch for the marijuana-laced candy and cookies and other edible products that are being mistaken by children for regular treats. Hospital emergency room visits by parents with young children have increased greatly because of drug ingestion.
Several years ago, an awkward dilemma for parents of young children was whether to hesitantly ask, “Is your pool covered? Are your guns locked up?” before letting your child go to a friend’s home for a playdate. Moms in Colorado and Washington and other states now need to add, “Is your edible marijuana up on a high shelf?”
An L.A. Times article points out that parents who open-mindedly voted to legalize recreational pot for their own use are now feeling the unanticipated complications it poses to family life. The newest parenting class du jour is how to talk to your kids about pot and the impact it has on the teen brain.
Of course, one of the harder parts of parenting is being a positive role model for your children. Parents are often asked by teens regarding alcohol, “You tell me not to drink, but why is it OK for you?” Somehow the parental explanations of how alcohol causes brain damage to undeveloped adolescent brains, and the legal underage restrictions on alcohol, don’t deeply affect a teen’s reasoning ability.
Perhaps the greatest danger involves the “chicness” of widespread marijuana use. Parents of tweens and teens know that their children are always looking for the latest fads and trends, and they want to be a part of those trends to add to their “cool” factor. Is it any surprise that the same parents and school administrators who were battling underage drinking four years ago are now seeing an increase in marijuana use by kids?
A drug and alcohol intervention specialist at a school in Seattle is noticing the effects of legalization in her middle school. She mused, “Legalization made an already bad problem worse. We’re taking something and we’re making it legal and that means it’s OK.” That’s the message tweens and teens will pick up on very quickly. Particularly shocking is the account of 4th-grade boys who were caught selling marijuana and pot-laced candy bars on the playground in Greeley, Colo. They had “borrowed” it from a grandparent, and now were attempting to earn a little extra pocket money for themselves.
You may be feeling relieved that these are not issues you have to deal with as a parent. But they soon could be. California may not be far behind in the rush toward pot legalization.
Parents who are sending their college students to colleges in other states already have a list of concerns about how their student will handle the challenges of living far away from home and out from under their parents’ restrictions. Landing in a state with legalized marijuana could add to a college student’s distractions as he or she tries to focus on academic accountability.
As a responsible parent, start to do research now on the destructive effect marijuana has on the young brain, and begin talking to your children early and often about what you learn. It’s time to talk pot before it’s being sold in candy bars on your child’s playground.

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