Parents and Pot, Part 1

Isn’t it time for “just say know”

I met with a major news organization today that is struggling with how to cover cannabis. Some are pro weed, others are on the fence. The discussion is admirable, but every time I speak to editors and journalists I realize that they too, are still laboring under the same misapprehensions caused by prohibition.

After the jokes and nervous twitters in the newsroom dissipated, the editors decided that topic of talking to teenagers about pot was on every parent’s mind. Whether they use cannabis or not, parents across the board are trying figure out the best ways of guiding their kids into responsible consumption. Why they haven’t been talking about smart ways of using (or not using cannabis) even before legalization became an issue is a separate topic, but this lack of discussion demonstrates that there is a huge generation gap when it comes to cannabis. Kids have long known that the American High School is the largest dispensary in the country. (Their parents know it too, they’re just not admitting it.)

In no time the editors decided that they should be worried about teenagers smoking weed because some studies purport that it causes long term damage in developing brains.

I couldn’t hold my tongue on this one. The “conclusions” of these studies are blatantly false — common sense demonstrates this more than any study can. Think about it: Humans have been using this plant for over 10,000 years and there has never been any incidence of mass psychosis. In this country a good percentage of people over 40 have used or tried pot, many of them when they were in high school, and again there have been no increases in psychoses, due to it. (True, Americans did elect Trump, but we can’t blame weed for that moment of cognitive dysfunction). In fact, the most dangerous substances these days are opioid painkillers, which doctors dole out as if they were candy.

Speaking of candy…some of the media folks in the newsroom wagged their fingers at manufacturers of cannabis-infused candies for making them into gummy bears, lollipops and other kid-friendly forms. Yes, manufacturers could be wiser and less obviously greedy in their sprint for market share, but even if they sold their cannacandies in tamper proof packaging I have to ask: Is it really bad candy design or is it bad parenting that leaves edibles out in full view of the kids? How much effort or consciousness does it require to stash the edibles in a high cabinet, into the nightstand or somewhere else out of sight and out of reach?

And let’s also take a breath and examine how the media itself is still complicit in spreading myths about the evils of cannabis on America’s youth. For example, the headline to one such story in Colorado read: “Kids emergency room visits for marijuana increased in Colorado after legalization, study finds.”

Two paragraphs into the piece, however, we learn that this increase amounted to a mere 16 cases of kids under the age of 9 going to the ER because they raided mom and dad’s candy jar. Sixteen kids in a state of 5 million residents! Is this really a crisis? It’s also worth noting that unlike the vodka, beer, opiates or other substances that kids might experiment with and which have been proven to be addictive and life destroying, cannabis can not kill them. It has never killed one human being in recorded history.

In fact, no other substance on earth has been used by more people in more cultures and in more quantity than cannabis. There are many areas of research that should be explored. Does overuse cause defects in brain function? If so, what constitutes overuse? But perhaps the discussion we, as a society, is one that teaches parents how to talk to their kids about using all substances in the post-prohibitionist era.

Rather than hiding from these thorny issues, I would also argue that adults need to raise the issues with their kids without hysterical fears intruding. When the dangers are overstated credibility goes out the window. Smart kids are often way ahead of their elders on these topics.

I want to discuss this in future blogs because parenting is among the most difficult jobs on earth. Parents should be guarding their kids from harm and unnecessary risk, but the question is: What are the most effective ways of actually communicating concern to teenagers who may be informed but who really aren’t wise.

If you have questions, thoughts or comments, please send them my way. Let’s discuss.

My next topic of exploration: What’s the truth about brain scans that show that pot is disturbing cerebral function? Stay tuned