Magazine Feature

Should Parents Smoke Pot In Front of Their Kids? A Therapist Weighs In

As a lifelong marijuana smoker, I always kept pot on the down low when it came to my son. One time, when he was little, he came outside unexpectedly and saw me hitting a joint. “That’s daddy’s medicine,” his mom replied when asked about it.

A year or two later, my son’s kindergarten teacher was cautioning the kids about playing with matches and asked if any of their parents smoked cigarettes. “My daddy smokes medicine!” my son chimed.

Luckily his granddad, a handsome player in his 70s, had been dating the kindergarten teacher and both of them liked to inhale. But as Dr. Mitch Earleywine, Ph.D. -- a board member of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws -- explains, it’s never too early to prepare for meaningful discourse.

SAGER: If a parent discovers his or her teen is smoking, what is the best course of action?
EARLEYWINE: Parents need to see talking about marijuana as part of a larger dialogue they have with their teen. Data from Harvard reveals that smoking pot early in life interferes with brain development in alarming ways. Although teens think they’re immune to the ill effects of everything, they’re going to want all the working memory and IQ they can muster. Even parents who experimented, and continue to experiment, can use reliable information to explain to their teens that marijuana is not healthy.

SAGER: The law says kids can smoke at 18. Is this an appropriate age?
EARLEYWINE: No. Brain development data suggests that no one should use alcohol or cannabis before age 24. That said, we’ve got too much of a tradition with certain age milestones to effectively buck the system. If 18-year-olds want to use cannabis, I would encourage them to do so twice a month or less and only if they are in a good mood. Using cannabis to alter bad moods can lead to a failure in learning how to tolerate upset. The only teens who should smoke regularly are ones who have a medical condition where cannabis is the only effective treatment. Even then, vaporizing or edible cannabis is a better approach.

SAGER: Is it OK for kids to see their parents smoking pot?
EARLEYWINE: Kids see their parents with alcohol. Hiding their cannabis use seems a little weird to me. Modeling appropriate use has the potential to teach kids good skills for later in life.

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 28 issue of Billboard.

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