Breaking the Stigma: How to Educate Your Kids About Cannabis

January 05, 2024

As a parent, it can be challenging to determine if you're making the right choices for your children and family. The constant influx of fear-inducing information and social media trends on the internet and television can make parenting feel daunting at times. Regardless of your children's age, it's difficult not to worry about the world around them. Fortunately, in this age of readily available information, it's easier than ever to find resources to share with your kids about how the world works. By consistently teaching them facts and encouraging independent thinking, it becomes more manageable to have conversations with your kids about safe engagement with cannabis when they are ready.

Raising a cannabis-friendly family goes beyond sharing your own experiences with marijuana use during your youth. Many millennials grew up in households where discussing such topics was discouraged, and social media was still in its infancy, while "The War On Drugs" seemed like a problem from the past, related to older siblings or parents. In our household, as parents, we don't shy away from discussing the topic of cannabis as a form of medicine. 

The process starts with you!

As parents who use cannabis, it's essential for us to maintain an open dialogue on the subject. The stigma surrounding cannabis can be overwhelming, so I've developed strategies to cope without smoking:

  1. Grant Yourself Grace: It's crucial to remind yourself that you're not a bad parent for using cannabis. Whether you view it as medicine or enjoy it recreationally, there's no need to be harsh on yourself if you consume cannabis safely.

  2. Stay Informed and Educated: The world of cannabis is ever-evolving. What your parents knew about cannabis may differ from your experiences, and the same will likely be true for your children. From Delta 8 to Delta 10, Terpenes to Topicals, there's always something innovative happening in the cannabis realm.

  3. Secure Social Media Safety: Whether you're raising a pre-teen or a young adult, it's crucial for you to be the primary source of education for your kids. Don't allow social media to misinform them. By opening the door to education, you empower your family to distinguish facts from fiction.

My husband is a retired Marine, a former cannabis industry worker, and a Medical Marijuana Patient. I've also grappled with mental health conditions throughout much of my young adult and adult life, including Post-Partum OCD. My mental health journey led me to explore medicinal alternatives to traditional medicine. Since we approach cannabis and life by considering the bigger picture, our aim is to instill values of honesty, open-mindedness, and kindness within our family.

Although our children are still young, we hold the belief that by being open and honest, our children will follow suit when the time comes. We've been fortunate to reside in a legal state, reaping the benefits of a regulated market, which has granted us financial and medical freedom. Unfortunately, across the country, many communities and families continue to be impacted daily by an inaccessible and illegal cannabis market. 

cannabis consumption Myths

Despite D.A.R.E. claiming to have removed cannabis from its list of Schedule 1 illicit drugs, their website conveys a different narrative. A substantial portion of the information on their site appears to originate from an organization known as SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana). SAM is renowned for its vocal opposition to the cannabis movement, often relying on dubious science and unfounded claims to make their case.

In a section labeled 'Scientific Facts,' SAM's website further underscores its reliance on outdated myths:

  • Myth: 'Science has proven – and all major scientific and medical organizations agree – that marijuana is both addictive and harmful to the human brain, especially when used during adolescence. One in every six 16-year-olds (and one in every eleven adults) who try marijuana will become addicted to it.'

For parents who prioritize research-backed information, it may prove challenging to locate scientific journals supporting many of SAM's assertions. Upon scrutiny of their sources, you may also observe that numerous 'facts' are based on studies that are over two decades old.

Utilizing antiquated information to propagate fear among families is not indicative of a reputable source.

Columbia University's Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse provides further insights into the connection between parental involvement and addiction to more potent substances.

“Parents are the key to kids avoiding drugs, and children who live with attentive parents stand a better chance of never using drugs than do those with 'hands-off' parents.”

Facts on Marijuana Use 

These scare tactics are nothing new. The “Just Say No” campaign contributed to a culture of back door bongs and unsafe growing practices. While people are quick to point to K2 and “Spice” products from a legal market, they serve more closely as an indicator of government overreach. 

Many of those anti-drug commercials and slogans from our childhood have become pop culture legends, or TikTok trending jokes. These programs didn’t work then and aren’t sustainable for a better future.

With groups like D.A.R.E. and SAM at the helm of school-based drug prevention, parents need to begin educating their children at home.  The phrase “drug use” can mean something different to each household. It’s important to set your own households expectations and lingo so that everyone is on the same page in your home. Much like religion and sexuality, cannabis is a subject that should not be left up to strangers. Each family has the obligation and right to decide how drug prevention is presented to their children. 

  • Fact: Marijuana is only federally classified as a drug. 
  • Fact: Most, especially in legal states, are still subject to outdated programs for education. 
  • Fact: Studies have shown how programs like D.A.R.E. inadvertently provide young people with a how-to manual for drug use.     

Professor of Psychiatry and founder of the Drug Dependence Unit at Yale University, Herbert D. Kleber told the San Jose Mercury News, “Our feeling was, after looking at the prevention movement, we were not having enough of an impact. There was a marked rise in drug use.”

This information is not news to educators and legislators. The legitimacy of these organizations has been called into question time and time again. 

This decision was made because the Department of Education did not consider the claims made by D.A.R.E. to be scientifically accurate. 

The common thread between many of these organizations is their appeal to parents who don’t know how to communicate with their children. A majority of the time they bank on our inability to have those tough talks and prey on fear-based, outdated parenting techniques. As we move into 2022 and more parents are made up of millennials it’s become apparent, no pun intended, that we are prepared to fight off misinformation and fear with open communication and facts

How To Talk To Your Kids About Weed

While the debate continues over whether cannabis falls under the classical classification of a 'drug,' its current prevalence in our country has compelled us to explore and educate our children about various substances. Regardless of where you stand in the cannabis debate, it's challenging to justify allowing anti-cannabis groups to impart scientifically inaccurate information to our children under the guise of education. Here are some effective ways to maintain open communication within your home:

  1. Listen Without Reacting: When your child approaches you with news, whether significant or trivial, practice active listening. It holds more significance than you might realize.

  2. Spend Quality Time on Their Terms: Even if you're not particularly interested in their activities, demonstrating an interest in your child's pursuits, regardless of your personal preferences, conveys that you value them as an individual.

  3. Be Honest: Avoid sugar-coating, lying, or distorting the truth. Honesty builds trust and is more beneficial in the long run.

  4. Share Your Own Experiences: Acknowledge that you were a person before becoming a parent. Discuss the changes in attitudes and approaches to cannabis from your own youth to the present.

  5. Embrace Social Media: Don't fear or dismiss platforms like Facebook or Snapchat. Strive for balance while establishing trust with your child. Take the initiative to join and explore the apps your child uses to become a valuable resource.

As parenting partners, we have gained unique experiences by educating ourselves to better educate others. Residing in a legal state not only provides access to cannabis but also up-to-date and unbiased educational resources. Regrettably, some parts of the country have yet to catch up with modern medicine. In these areas, having reliable resources becomes essential for facilitating safe and informed conversations about cannabis.

Consuming Cannabis: When Is Okay For Young People?

A parents job is to provide a safe and open space for our kids to come and talk to us. However as laws and legality catch up to societal norms a point of contention is smoking with your children. Most studies agree that while open communication is most important, allowing their brains to finish developing is just as important. Most experts say that waiting makes it worth it. A recent study shared that the ideal age for starting smoking is 19.

 Why, you might be wondering? Here’s a few facts: 

  • Less negative impacts on long term health. 
  • More educational attainment by age 19. 
  • Mental and physical health are less impacted when teens wait to use marijuana. 

It’s important to follow the facts. Most of us started smoking young, and can pinpoint times in our lives that those decisions made a negative impact on our mental well being. Every day more research is provided on how and when to experiment with marijuana. Another study found that 

“your risk of having a drug abuse problem by age 28 is 68 per cent, but if you started smoking between 15 and 17 your risk drops to 44 per cent” 

As your child’s biggest advocate it’s our responsibility to make sure that they’re making choices that give them long term success. There are a few ways to encourage them to wait: 

  • Provide the pot: When they turn of age (whatever age you both agree on) surprise them with a gift basket of high quality products. 
  • Encourage activity: The more involved your child is with other activities and friends until the appropriate age the easier it can be to hold boundaries. 
  • Support with facts: Sit down and have an open and honest conversation about the how and why behind waiting to partake in pot. 

As a product of the Midwest I am well aware of what non-legal markets look like and how they thrive in the age of misinformation. A lack of education leaves states with a loose grip on how marijuana functions and what the products contain. In some legal states, unless you are a medical patient you still may be unable to be open and honest about their use and support for cannabis due to continued social stigmas, legal implications, and more.

Those in cannabis-restricted states are forced to use a system of silence that does not provide an opportunity for real cannabis education. From the Vape Scares of the early 00’s to the Concentrate Crisis taking over the news channels. 

Resources for Parents 

So, where can a parent go to obtain relevant, factual information to educate their children (and themselves)? And once the conversation has been opened, what do you say? You can utilize some real-life examples in this curated list to help open up cannabis communication in your home.

You’ve already made it through step one, deciding that your children deserve a fair chance at making their own, educated choices for their bodies. It can be difficult to know what the right option is for your family. Finding a community of like minded parents can be life changing for developing ways to talk about cannabis with kids. Need some more ways to connect about cannabis? Here are a few ways to get started: 

  • Find parents supporting parents and other resources here for developing positive techniques for talking to your teens. 

  • Read some of the parents’ opinions about marijuana and how they talked to their kids about it here. Sometimes, seeing other methods of communication can help us open up our avenues.

Here are just a few resources for parents on how to appropriately talk to their kids about cannabis. It doesn’t have to be a dinner table talk or a trapped car ride, you can develop healthy habits for any tough conversation with some of these resources:

We have no affiliation with any of the sites listed. They were vetted for credibility only and I do not personally “endorse” them.

About The Author

Lydia Mcclendon is a Millennial Mom based in the foothills of Colorado. She is a copywriter, graphic designer, and jill-of-all-trades. Lydia has written for some of the best brands in the cannabis industry to date and wants to educate and elevate others about the cannabis space. In her spare time, you can find her enjoying good food with her husband and kids, escaping to the mountains for some adventure, or rewatching The Office. Here is Lydia’s Linkedin and Instagram

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