With the upcoming legalization of cannabis, also known as marijuana, now is a great opportunity to get educated on the cannabis new laws and start having conversations with your children about marijuana. Under the new legislation, the minimum age for possession and consumption of cannabis is 18. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that your children won’t be exposed to the drug before reaching the legal age for possession and consumption of cannabis. According to Statistics Canada, almost 29 percent of teens aged 15 to 19 have used cannabis. And whether or not your children have already been directly exposed to it, chances are they’ve already heard about its legalization and likely have questions.
How to start the conversation?
Get ahead of it. When talking about difficult topics such as this one with your kids, it is helpful to start early. Although you always want to make sure the conversations surrounding marijuana are age-appropriate, you can start to open the lines of communication with your children now, so they know they can always come to you with any questions about marijuana as they get older. With younger-aged kids, talk to them about who are the trusted adults in their lives they can talk to about drugs, and about how they should always trust their gut when it comes to the use of drugs. By building an open relationship with your children when they are young, they’ll hopefully feel more comfortable using you as a resource they can always come to and trust in the future.
As your children get older, it’s important to stay ahead of the topic of marijuana. Kids learn about many things from their peers and through the media, so it’s likely your kids have already heard about cannabis. When talking with your kids about marijuana, ask them what they already know and if they have any questions about drugs that you can help them answer.
Know what you are talking about. Kids will recognize quickly if you sound like you don’t know what you are talking about when it comes to cannabis. Before starting this discussion, make sure you educate yourself on what cannabis is, what the effects are, and how it differs from other drugs. Being able to answer your children’s questions about cannabis makes you a more credible source of information and can also help you to correct any misinformation or rumours your kids might have about the drug.
If you don’t have the answers to your children’s questions, use it as an opportunity to research the answers with your kids; never dismiss a question or make up an answer. There are a lot of great resources for parents looking for more information, including the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, ccdus.ca, and Drug Free Kids, drugfreekidscanada.org. For more information on cannabis legalization in Alberta, including the minimum age and other restrictions, visit alberta.ca/cannabis-framework.aspx.
Give them strategies. If your kids are older, make sure that the discussion includes strategies for how they can handle a situation where they could be offered cannabis or when they are with peers who are talking about the drug. Telling your children to simply not do drugs or to just say no is not always effective. Help your children by creating a few different responses they can use if they are ever put in a situation where they are feeling pressured to try or use drugs. Practicing these scenarios ahead of time with your children can help to alleviate you and your kids’ stress should and when your kids are offered drugs by others.
Know your child. There is a difference in how you would approach a conversation about drugs with a kid who is curious and may have some questions versus a teenager that is currently using drugs. You know your children best and should trust yourself to determine when they are ready to start having these types of discussions.
As our community adjusts to the legalization of cannabis, I am sure there will be many opportunities that can be used to start the cannabis discussion with our youth.
Roger Chaffin is the Chief of Police for the Calgary Police Service.
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