When and how to talk to your kids about marijuana
According to the state of Colorado, 121,000 people possess valid medical marijuana licenses and Colorado has more than 750 dispensaries. Like it or not, we are on the front lines of the medical marijuana industry with a potential ballot issue on legalization a year from now.
What numbers like that, children are bound to have questions. Did you inhale? And are you planning on telling your kid that you did? These are indeed difficult questions – the second one is, anyway.
As a former journalist, I err on the side of full and complete disclosure with most issues when it comes to my 9-year-old daughter. In fact, I often take the facts a step too far and find myself struggling to retract certain bits of information.
Doe she really need to know what a medical marijuana dispensary is? I almost can’t help myself. I have a bad habit of grumbling out loud to myself, forgetting I’ve got impressionable young ears in the back seat. I’ve written stories about dispensaries and their close proximity to many college campuses – and even schools – in Colorado. As a mom and community member, I have concerns about that. It’s hard not to see big neon pot leaves on store windows and wonder what they are, or observe non-descript storefronts with ambiguous names, such as the Boulder Wellness Center or High Grade Alternatives, and have a few questions. Rather, it’s hard for me not to see these things.
“That would be the perfect spot for a new coffee shop, I can’t believe it’s another dispensary! Do we really need another one in Boulder?”
And so, I’ve put myself in the position of trying to explain medical marijuana to an elementary-age child.
“It’s illegal to smoke marijuana, which is bad for your lungs just like cigarettes are …but if you get this card because you’re sick and in pain, you can legally use it. Yeah, it makes you feel funny and some people say it makes them feel better – especially if they’re undergoing chemotherapy and feel nauseated.” Forget trying to explain why there are so many young people with “chronic pain” that need to hit the dispensary for their “medicine.” (I don’t know about you, but my body felt great in college). And forget trying to understand how marijuana helps alleviate pain. I thought it enhanced one’s senses.
Anyway, all this leads me to pose this question: How do you talk to your kids about drugs – legal or not? At what age are they ready for the conversation? And how much should you confess of your own past?
I posed this question to one of the EdNews Parent experts. He’s a child psychiatrist after all, who works with teens, so I figured he’d have a good take. In this post, he recommends asking a series of questions to your child when he or she reaches seventh grade. (Sooner if a question or problem arises regarding drug use). As for revealing personal anecdotes, he says it’s not necessary – unless your child asks you point-blank. Then you’re in a tricky spot. You could acknowledge your own experimentation, but tell your child the negative health effects or legal consequences should they get caught. At the same time, you want your child to be open with you and tell you if someone offers him something or if he tries it.
So, I guess I’m off the hook for a few more years in terms of having this particular talk with my daughter. But I know it’s coming.
Now, let’s hear what you have to say.
Julie Poppen edits EdNews Parent, a nonprofit-funded website and newsletter targeting Colorado parents that focuses on healthy schools, teaching and learning, and school safety. Poppen is a former daily newspaper journalist most recently with the Rocky Mountain News who has covered a multitude of school issues in Fort Collins, Boulder and Denver. She’s also the mother of a fourth-grader in Boulder Valley schools and regular – though not always perfectly proficient – classroom volunteer. Check out her blog, Confessions of Partially Proficient Parent.