Parents have a lot to worry about when it comes to their kids. I wouldn’t know because I only own a dog, but I hear it isn’t easy. Social media, school safety, mental health, tech overuse, and diets are all top parent concerns as we head into 2024. For some families, weed is another critical issue. The worry is particularly pressing for new parents, those who don’t consume, or those who are just getting back into weed themselves.
The concerns are warranted when considering cities like New York City and states like California struggle with unlicensed shops, many of whom aren’t selling the most reputable products. Additionally, health concerns surrounding underage use continue to be lab analyzed. While we don’t have all the data, conclusions so far suggest that early use could present long-term health issues, including less-than-ideal brain development and schizophrenia. In one study, researchers using statistical models concluded that 30% of schizophrenia cases in men aged 21-30 might have been prevented by averting cannabis use disorder. Such figures have been debated among different lab studies but still present a potential grave concern.
There’s much to learn about weed, even on a beginner’s level. The struggle is immense, especially for parents who want answers now. I saw this desire firsthand in 2023 while conducting two Q&A panels with New York City Council Member Shahana Hanif in Brooklyn. The biggest takeaway was clear: Parents have many questions about weed and few trustworthy sources to turn to.
Thankfully, weed is continually being normalized in several ways, including the media. Q&As featuring pot-friendly celebrity parents like Wiz Khalifa are normalizing frank, honest discussions about responsible use and how the plant fits into family life. To provide further insight, I spoke with several parents across the US to gather the varied takes on pot and parenting from everyday consumers, providing insights into the similarities and different approaches they have with pot education and normalization.
Open, Honest Talks
Most parents suggest open, honest discussions once kids become aware of their world and family dynamics. Instead of hiding in the shed or giving up the ganja, consider having frank conversations with your kids when the time feels right. Discuss how the plant fits into family life and how it isn’t for kids.
Mskindness B. Ramirez, the founder of the Southern California-based education platform Club Kindness, teaches her 13-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter that cannabis is part of their daily life.
“They know the rules around what’s safe and what’s not,” said Ramirez, adding her kids aren’t that interested in pot, attributing it to its availability.
Along with her husband, the family has integrated the plant into everyday life through storytelling and everyday use, including growing it next to the tomatoes in their garden and making CBD for their pets. Ramirez also penned the children’s cannabis education book, The Root Family’s Very Special Garden, based on her family’s experiences.
Missy Fogarty, founder of New York State-based education and advocacy platform Pothead Parent, teaches her kids and other interested parents about plant benefits and risks.
“I think this is the best time to open up and give them all their options,” said Fogarty about educating kids. Along with her husband Derek, a military veteran, Fogarty has used cannabis since high school, crediting the plant with helping them through extreme periods of stress, anxiety, and trauma, including early birth struggles with both of their young sons.
Ramirez, Fogarty, and other parents say they normalize cannabis by treating it as a medical option. Casey Renteria, a mom and freelance cannabis media and content creator, said she’s shown her seven-year-old daughter her dispensary purchases, allowing her to smell the items. “I was very clear with her that it was my medicine, and I’ll gladly show her and answer all her questions, but it wasn’t something for her to play with,” she said. Renteria stated that her daughter lost interest after inspecting a handful of her mom’s purchases. “Using cannabis is as normal as coffee or food in my home,” she added.
Sabina Tashbayeva, a 30-something mom in New York State, started using cannabis to treat postpartum symptoms about 18 months after her now eight-year-old son was born. “I had a conversation recently with my son about plant medicine and why I use it, and when the time comes, he also will be able to consume it,” she said. Tashbayeva’s consumption has continued over the years, crediting the plant for helping her become a kinder and gentler parent.
Changing Consumption Habits
Parents all reported doing the natural thing and avoiding smoking around their children. Other than that, responses varied regarding consumption habits. Several continue to smoke and vape weed, albeit outside or somewhere far removed from minors. Other parents did away with smoke and vapor, moving towards more discreet options.
“I try to smoke less to avoid questions about why I smell like a skunk,” said Jordan Isenstadt, senior vice president at pot firm Marino PR and father to an 11 and 7-year-old. “I also no longer have a collection of bongs or volcanoes. I try to keep it pretty simple these days,” he said, adding he now stores his weed in a locked compartment in the basement.
For the most part, parents reported maintaining a similar consumption pattern now that they’re parents. However, some slight modifications occur over time. “If anything, I’d say the only real change is my morning wake and bake is delayed till I get home from dropping my boys off at school,” said Enrique Alvarado, creative director at Chronicle and a father of two in Colorado.
What About Your Kids Using Weed?
Parents were largely uniform in their responses regarding education and the normalization of safe consumption. Meanwhile, acceptable consumption ages varied.
The law states that adults must be 21 or have a medical license to legally consume at a younger age as part of a medical program. Citing the law or select studies, including analyses finding that cannabis may impact brain development until 18 to 25 years old, many parents would prefer to see their kids stay away from weed.
“I’m here for the lab studies when it comes to things like inhalation, hot smoke, and developing brains,” said Ramirez. She predicted that despite the education, her son would likely try smoking at some point in his youth. Other parents echoed similar feelings.
“I would prefer that my kids wait until they are 25 when their brains are fully developed for them to start consuming,” said Rob Mejia, a cannabis studies professor at New Jersey’s Stockton University and father of two sons in their early 20s. Mejia, president of community education brand Our Community Harvest, added, “But I’m a realist and know that chances were good they would try in high school or college.”
Others indicated their approval of their kids starting sooner, with many hoping their children turn to their parents for additional education and help sourcing safe products. Some parents noted their stances would change if the law didn’t threaten parental rights and personal freedom. “If we were allowed to give cannabis to our children legally, I would be answering this question differently, but since the penalty for giving children cannabis without a prescription is 14 years in jail…” said Rev. Kelly Addison, founder of Canadian cannabis education platform KGL Network.
Several parents, including Renteria, say they give their kids cannabis for medical purposes. The Renteria household reports the kids have adhered to a strict CBD-only regimen for the past five years. “We use infused petroleum jelly on scrapes and topicals before bed when it’s been a rough day,” she said, adding that the family does not use inhalables.
A Personalized Experience
The law has its protocols, which parents must adhere to or risk run-ins with Child Protective Services. Laws aside, every family has their own views on weed and how it fits into their home. The views of just a dozen or so parents shine a light on their similarities and differences regarding the subject. There is no one-size-fits-all response.
Like many parents have told me over the years, you try to do your best when raising a kid. Open conversations, exposure to responsible use and the overall normalization of the plant into everyday life are great places to educate your kids about pot best. Consider contacting the platforms mentioned in this article, or check out leading advocacy groups like NORML to connect with local and national groups of parents and plant advocates.
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