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On Parenting: Giving Kids the Straight Dope on Legal Pot

How will conversations with our kids about drugs change in the wake of I-502? Tell us in the comments section.

Okay, let’s talk about pot. Let’s talk about it amongst ourselves, as adults, so we know what we want to say before the kids start asking questions.

After I-1183 passed, bringing liquor into grocery stores, I talked about the impact of having more alcohol our kids’ world than before. I believed (and still believe) that it is unimportant if they see it on a shelf or not. It is the parent’s attitude toward, and use of, the substance that will have the biggest impact on the child’s attitude and use of the substance.

But I drink, so I didn’t have much of a leg to stand on arguing for prohibition.

I don’t smoke pot. I have before, but all it does is make me hungry and sleepy. And as a fat lazy person, I don’t need any extra help in those two areas.

Given that, I have much more believability were I to decry marijuana legalization. Yet, I was personally thrilled that it passed. (And please remember, before you write your comment, I don’t smoke pot. You’d be able to tell. I’d be 300 pounds if I did.)

But I don’t want to talk about the law. For me, it seemed a step toward liberty and personal responsibility. For others, it was another brick lost in the wall of civilization. We can agree to disagree. The question is what impact legalization will have on our conversations with our kids.

Here seems to be gist of the cries of those parents who lost. What will we say to our children? And how will we tell them not to use pot if it’s not illegal? And especially, how will we have those conversations without sounding like hypocrites if we’ve ever used it before?

My response?

I’m sorry, but I don’t understand. I will say she can't use marijuana until she's 21, just like alcohol, because that's the law. I will tell her I hope she never uses it, because it makes you fat and lazy, and she is neither. I will tell her how I know that it does, which is because I've used it before.

I don't see the problem.

I drink. And I have absolutely no problem telling my daughter that she cannot. It’s not optional. She’s not 21. Now, I will tell her additionally that using marijuana, like drinking alcohol, is a decision for adults. Which she is not.

And how will I influence her choice once she turns 21? The same way I would have influenced her choice the first time she came in contact with it when it was illegal. By talking to her.

And if you think you had more say in your kid's decision than that before I-502 passed, you are wrong. Your words and their minds are all you have.

If you really believe that pot is a gateway drug, that it’s so much more potent than it was in the 60s, that it really is physically addictive and all the evidence to the contrary is a lie, then tell your child that. 

Be ready for them to ask why pot didn’t destroy the lives of the many famous and accomplished people who have acknowledged past use. If you used, be ready for them to ask why it didn’t destroy you. Be careful. Kids are smart. They see through lies.

Be truthful. Be direct. Tell them what you think and what you believe. Tell them your honest experience. Show them Uncle Bill, who still lives in their grandparents' basement at the age of 35. Tell them why, instead of hinting about it like you might have done before.

True, you won’t have a stick of fear to beat them with (unless it’s the fear of weighing 300 pounds). You won’t have the law “on your side.” You just have the 18 to 21 years you had to teach them how to make good choices.

Tell your kids your values. And live them. They are the only real weapons you have in the war on drugs, whether the substance in question is legal or not.

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For more coverage on I-502 and marijuana legalization in Washington state, click here. To read the full text of the initiative, follow this link.

Joe November 17, 2012 at 06:59 PM
“The question is what impact legalization will have on our conversations with our kids.” Hopefully, parents will approach the topic with their children the same way they talk about bodies and sex: objectively, openly and honestly. In truth, we humans have been altering our consciousness using plants and fermented beverages for eons, from the beginning probably. Children the world over are known to spin themselves dizzy, hold their breaths until light-headed, etc. Animals will go out of their way to intoxicate themselves with catnips and fruits that have started fermenting. The desire to our alter our consciousness, it would seem, is a completely natural desire, like the desire for food and sex. As others have pointed out, moderation is the key to enjoying it safely. If the brain is still forming, as a child’s brain is, then abstinence from consciousness-altering substances is probably best (no coffee, etc).
RED ALERT November 17, 2012 at 08:01 PM
RED ALERT!!! There are NO answers here that will work for every child of every family. Right now I have 2 teenage nieces in rehabs. These girls are from 2-parent, hard working, attentive families. As soon as the medical marijuana shops started springing up the older niece was given access to "edibles" from older kids. It is CHEAP and not detectible as smelling smoke. My nieces are close to straight A students, play in the orchestras, and are anything BUT fat and lazy. Yet, they have outgrown the computer games and found something else. Their "trying" has gone beyond the experimental stage, and it is due to the cheap availability of pot, hash, THC. School suspensions and changes in their behavior are now the result. If these girls are NOT to follow the path of my niece from hubby's side who spiraled into heroin and died from it, action needed to be taken now. Did ANYONE think of the social consequences when they voted to relax these drug laws? The social consequences of "medical" (who are we kidding!!!) marijuana is already apparent, and now the people want even more availability. I don't care if the law or you parents say "21 just like alcohol" the kids will get it and now it easier than ever before. Beware parents! Your kids ARE eating the drugs. The cookies are eaten while out and when they get home there is no evidence in their backpack or handbags. You need to watch any pocket money you have laying around. A mere $5 to $10 is all it takes. Good luck!
dexterjibs November 17, 2012 at 08:19 PM
Oh-oh! You spoke ill of marihuana. Be prepared to be berated by the pot heads that believe marihuana is manna from heaven and cures all your ails and that this law will help all of society.
Ken December 07, 2012 at 06:10 AM
Yes ... it may be legal in the state now but it's still against my employers rules. I work at a drug free company. And I like it!
Brad H. February 05, 2013 at 05:01 PM
"Recreational use" is a term that makes me laugh. It is all part of the big lie about marihuana use" -says the guy with a profile picture of a well-known prescription drug addict smoking a cigar

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