Teens and Marijuana
Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson
Health, Wellness, & Safety
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As you’re probably aware, I live in Washington State. You might also be aware that Washington is one of two states (along with Colorado) that recently legalized the use of recreational marijuana. In addition, although marijuana is still prohibited under Federal law, the Department of Justice has agreed to not take either state to court over these new marijuana laws.
It is not unreasonable to assume your child expects you also to look the other way.
No matter what your opinion about loosening the laws about pot, and despite the fact that you probably don’t live in a state where marijuana is legal, your teen or his best friend is certainly paying attention. The fact that the line between legal and illegal pot use has blurred means – to a teen, at least – that maybe it’s not such a big deal to smoke a joint now and then. You and your rules are now believed by some kids as being behind the times.
If this matters to you – and it should – then the time to speak with your child is now, not later. Even if marijuana use hasn’t been on your radar screen, if you’ve been more worried about tobacco and alcohol, the time to make clear your stance on pot has come. Here is some advice.
- If you wish to prohibit your teen’s marijuana use, don’t bother to trot out scientific studies to make your case. The science is still out, with some research saying one thing and other research saying the opposite. Your teen will be able to match you, study for study. To avoid a shouting match, don’t try to convince anyone that her brain will rot if she smokes pot.
- Instead, if you wish to prohibit your teen’s marijuana use, make your feelings absolutely clear, just as you might if discussing premarital sex or unprotected sex or binge drinking or whatever else you want to forbid. No need to make threats or trot out unconvincing studies. Just say, “I know this is out there and some kids will feel the situation in other states makes smoking pot okay. It doesn’t for this family. Don’t do it.”
- If you don’t really care if your kid smokes pot or even if you support marijuana decriminalization, still, please, talk with your kid. Remind her that even in states where pot is legalized, it is still illegal for minors. Remind her that the laws in your own state haven’t changed and a conviction for pot smoking or selling will stick with her for a very long time.
- Warn your teen to be careful in party situations where others might bring marijuana to share or might take it upon themselves to serve pot-laced foods. This has always been an issue for party-goers, of course, but is more likely to become an issue now that some kids will think the rules have changed. Remind your teen that a simple traffic stop can become a huge problem if a passenger in their car has a pocketful of paraphernalia.
There’s a good bit of consternation in my state, from parents who suddenly don’t know what to do about marijuana. Laws may change but good parenting hasn’t. Talk with your teen.
© 2014, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Ask for Dr. Anderson’s book, Parenting: A Field Guide, at your favorite bookstore.