Welcome to the new era: marijuana is legal in a growing number of states across the country, which means that (finally!) it’s legally allowed and generally accepted to smoke pot. And can we get an amen. But if you are a parent, there’s a catch. While pouring a large glass of wine to wash down dinner — a temper tantrum — a rough day feels appropriate in front of your children, the question of appropriate conduct for parents who use cannabis is a little less cut and dry. If you find yourself wondering, “should parents use cannabis in front of kids?” then you’re not alone. And also, we don’t have a solid answer for you.
We wish we did. We wish we could say heck yes, go ahead light up in front of your offspring, it’s totally legal and totally OK! But as any parent knows, nothing about raising kids is that simple. (Which is why many of us so thoroughly enjoy cannabis.)
So what’s a parent to do? Do you hide your habits? Do you go about your business just as you would pour a cocktail or pop an Advil? Do you have a long talk about cannabis use before you take any actions?
We would argue that there are several factors to consider.
Should Parents Use Cannabis in Front of Kids? Age Matters
Small children are a.) very impressionable and will mimic your every move and b.) naive enough to not fully understand your actions or motivations. While it might seem like using cannabis would be totally over their heads and they would be oblivious to what you are doing, any 4-year-old could go to school and report back to her teachers/friends/total strangers that she saw mommy smoking a joint. Be careful what you do and what you expose your young children to. Remember, they’re too young to understand the potential risks (or rewards) of any behavior, and all they’ll know is what they see and how you act.
The teen brain is actively developing and often will not be fully developed until the mid 20s. Marijuana use during this period may harm the developing teen brain.
When it comes to Tweens and Teens, it’s a Different Story for Parents who use Cannabis
You absolutely, 100% need to talk to your kids about marijuana.
You need to be honest with your kids about what pot is, how it works, how it makes you feel, all that it can do to improve your health, your mood and your life, and of course, all of the risks. You also need to be thorough in how you discuss the legal regulations around marijuana use. Remember, cannabis is still a Schedule I illegal substance according to federal law, so while it might be legal for recreational or medical use in specific states, it’s still considered illicit and with potential for addiction, if you ask the federal government. Your kids need to understand the legal age and legal states where one can use pot, and even more importantly, they need to know about safety — never drive under the influence and always consume in moderation and in a safe environment.
Another hugely important factor: how cannabis use can affect your developing teens.
While it might be safe and legal for an adult to consume marijuana, it’s a totally different story with the developing teenage brain. According to the CDC, “the teen brain is actively developing and often will not be fully developed until the mid 20s. Marijuana use during this period may harm the developing teen brain.” So, while you may be able to use cannabis, and you can be open and honest with your kids about your habits, you also need to be very clear that for the sake of their healthy and safety, they need to do as you say, not as you do. We know…we sound like our parents…but in this case it just might be true.
So, the million-dollar question: should parents use cannabis in front of kids?
It seems strange to hide marijuana habits while so casually enjoying alcohol and other legal substances in front of your kids. But again, it’s all about how you act and the responsible behavior you demonstrate, more than it is about denying any pot use at all. Dr. Mitch Earleywine, Ph.D., a therapist and board member of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, tells Billboard, “modeling appropriate use has the potential to teach kids good skills for later in life.”
You need to talk to them, you need to show them how a responsible (and remember, of legal age) adult can use cannabis in a safe way, and you need to be open to dialogue and questions on their end.
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