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How To Talk With Your Teens About Marijuana

Updated: Feb 12, 2022

Many states have legalized the adult use of recreational marijuana and whether they’ve caught a whiff of weed while traveling your local roadways, seen smoke-filled TikTok videos or heard neighbors debating whether marijuana shops belong in our downtowns, kids are starting to ask questions.

Cannabis has gone from being widely banned to widely available, which means that parents can no longer lead with “it’s illegal,” though it’s important to remember that marijuana use by people under the age of 21 remains illegal. That’s the case because several studies have found that underage cannabis use – and more specifically, exposure to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the principal psychoactive component in marijuana that produces a high – impacts brain development in unhealthy ways.

Short term marijuana use can impair attention span, memory, learning and decision-making and those effects can last for days after the high wears off. Heavy marijuana during adolescence or early adulthood has been associated with significant structural changes in the brain and its neural pathways, which in turn have been connected with mood and personality disorders, future addiction, a loss of IQ points and a host of negative outcomes related to school/work performance, family functioning and interpersonal relationships.

Parents can begin talking with kids about marijuana and other drugs between the ages of 8 and 10, depending on the child’s maturity level, though it’s fine to start sooner if they ask. Understand that discussions with tweens, teens and young adults should be markedly different, but should continually build on previous conversations.

Here are some tips for having age-appropriate, productive, educational and supportive conversations with your kids:

· Use their questions as a springboard for discussion. A series of short, spontaneous casual conversations in the car will likely be more effective than a formal family meeting that puts everyone on edge.

· Listen as much as you talk. Find out how much your kids know about marijuana, how they feel about their peers who might be experimenting and pose open ended queries like, “What are some questions you have about marijuana?”

· Help them understand that making marijuana legal doesn’t make it safe, especially for young people, pregnant women and those driving a car. Alcohol and cigarettes remain legal, yet we know they carry significant health consequences. Still, be careful not to exaggerate the potential dangers associated with cannabis (comparing it to heroin) and avoid demonizing the drug or those who use it.

· If asked about medical marijuana, it’s fine to acknowledge that cannabis can help with certain medical conditions and that people generally turn to their doctors for guidance about whether it’s right for them.

· Teens often repeat social media messages proclaiming that, “it’s just a plant.” Right, but so is hemlock and poison ivy.

· Clarify your values and convey your expectations. As a parent, you have more influence over your kids than anyone else, including the rapper with a bong on Instagram or the kid on the cul-de-sac who vapes weed on the bus. Use that influence, explain your concern for their health and safety and challenge the notion “everyone is doing it.”

· Experimentation is normal. If your child is caught or admits to smoking marijuana, this is an excellent opportunity to talk about it, and learn why they decided to try it. Ask probing questions like, “What happened?” and “What are some of the reasons you used marijuana?” Ask them how they feel about it after the fact and let them know you are concerned about the habit progressing.

· If your child is using marijuana regularly, try to understand what’s driving their decision. Is it social pressure? Curiosity or boredom? Or, is it a way to cope with stress, anxiety or depression? Their answers can help you address the underlying motivations and manage them in a safer and healthier way.

Above all, try to ensure that each conversation - regardless of how challenging it gets - conveys your unconditional love, support and concern for your child’s healthy development and well-being. That’s the very best antidote to marijuana and everything else that puts our kids at risk.



Hi! I'm Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds

I write many of the articles here on Cannaquit and make sure I personally review every piece of information that appears on the site, so as to make sure you are getting facts and information supported by evidence.

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