In fact, the laws voted in that changed the legal status of retail marijuana in the state of Colorado don’t apply to those under 21 anyway, but let’s be candid: legalization has made weed considerably easier to acquire.
Problem is, it turns out that while there are good and bad effects to marijuana usage in adults, the scales are considerably further tipped to the “bad’ side when you’re under 21 and in particular when you’re under 18. Obviously there are still legal ramifications because you can still get busted for possession, but it’s the health issues that are far more concerning, and that’s why I wanted to write about it.
I’m not alone in this concern either: The Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment just launched pretty slick resources on the Good To Know website with lots of content created especially for Colorado parents to start talking to their kids about marijuana use.
My own experience with pot has been weird in as much as I’ve never tried it. Not as a teen growing up in beach communities in Southern California, not in college and not as an adult. I certainly have had hundreds of opportunities, but it’s just never had any allure to me. So it’s a bit difficult for me to related to the pressure my own teens (now 18 and 15) face in this regard, but particularly with the legalization, it’s really become more pervasive and more open, producing more opportunities for them to try it and less apparent consequences.
After all, “if it’s legal, how can there be any danger to it, Dad? If it was unhealthy, they wouldn’t have legalized it, right?”
The truth is that there are plenty of things that are legal, a well-established part of our culture and remarkably unhealthy. Alcohol, tobacco, and even some foods and food additives have reams of data to show how unhealthy they are. But that doesn’t change what I can pick up at the grocery store (beer? cigarettes? those are groceries?)
More concerning is that there’s lots of research now that shows the human brain is developing up until the age of 25 and that substance use, including marijuana, can have adverse impact on brains that are still growing. Kids might not care — and of course every teen is convinced they’re immortal and invincible — but us parents really do need to care, and that’s best done by being straight and honest with your child.
Not harsh or critical, though. If you lose it and explode when your teen finally has the courage to admit that they’ve tried a few beers or a joint with buddies, they’ll likely shut down forever. I know firsthand when my teens admitted that they’ve made these sort of decisions (and yes, I’m being a bit vague here. Deliberately). I was straight with them that I was concerned, did not support it and thought it was a really bad idea, but I also said that I understood how in certain situations it can be incredibly hard to be the one kid who says “no”. But being true to yourself is more important than fitting in or being cool.
As the Good to Know campaign states it “youth do not respond well to messages that are perceived as preachy, overbearing or utilize scare tactics.” But let’s be frank too: In a culture that celebrates bad behavior and constantly parades the rewards of heavy partying, drug usage, getting high and buzzed, it really is up to us parents to make it clear that marijuana and the like are a bad idea for kids and teens, have serious negative consequences and are often a short-term buzz potentially at the cost of long-term happiness and success.
At the end of the day, however, our role as parents is to guide, to help our children grow and become the happy, successful adults we know that they can become. And that’s quite a job!
Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Single Edition Media on behalf of the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment.
I really love your approach here; I find that having an open-minded dialogue with my children has helped them confess these kinds of things to me also which always leads to really great conversations. I learn from them as much as they learn from me and I always want them to approach me about things I can’t pretend AREN’T happening. Thanks for this information 🙂
I can’t tell you how nice it is to read thoughts from another Colorado parent about being mindful and present when it comes to guiding our children through this new wild west.
I started a Parent to Parent Alliance here in Aspen, to help empower parents to keep their kids healthy, and I have been doing my best to provide helpful information on my social channels, and blog.
GoodtoknowColorado.com/talk is a great site to pull up in front of your kids and start the talk, but I will say from all of our experiences of raising teen boys in a party town, it is best to start the conversation as early as possible with children, when they are still listening, because as you say, legalization has made weed considerably easier to acquire for our youth, no matter how much one would like to argue that point.
The good news is that by staying strong, we are beginning to be rewarded for our efforts and see how it actually is possible to guide a child away from substance use – but in order to be successful, you have to be the parent – and not the bud-dy (pun intended).
Glad to find you!