Post-Legalization: How Will Parents Talk To Kids About Pot?

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Post-Legalization: How Will Parents Talk To Kids About Pot?

By Victoria Kim 08/09/16

With legalization quickly becoming a reality, parents will be forced to adjust to create a new pot conversation with their kids in this post-DARE world.

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Post-Legalization: How Will Parents Talk To Kids About Pot?

As of now, five states—Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada—will vote on cannabis legalization this coming November. As the number of states considering legalization increases with each election year, this has raised questions regarding the wider social impact of legal pot and its growing acceptance. 

One of these questions is, how will legalization change the conversation that parents have about cannabis with their kids? Marijuana is just as much a part of American culture as anti-drug messages like “Just Say No” and those propagated by the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program are. 

But as more states legalize—for medical or recreational use, or both—families can now exemplify healthy behavior with cannabis rather than pathologize it, Julie Holland, psychiatrist and author of The Pot Book: A Complete Guide to Cannabis, told LA Weekly.

“Parents having to hide from kids, kids having to hide from parents—all this hiding, lying and shame makes the behavior more compulsive,” said Holland. “Prohibition means we can’t model healthy behavior.”  

The idea of a “drug-free world” hasn’t worked, says Jerry Otero, founder of Cre8tive YouTH*nk, a creative-arts social justice youth development organization. This is our chance to “rethink [our] approach” to educating kids about drugs, he said.

DARE has been a certifiable failure by most accounts since its inception in the early '80s during the height of the War on Drugs, though the program and its proponents continue to tout its successes. Though it has been in decline over the last decade, DARE is still implemented in 75% of U.S. school districts and in more than 52 countries. 

"I don't remember anything about DARE," says Louise, a Maine resident and medical cannabis patient who asked to remain anonymous. But she would still want her young daughter to go through a similar program.

"I want to believe that my daughter would make the right choices, which is not to get involved with drugs," she told The Fix. "But I know it's inevitable sometimes. So I want her to know the dangers and consequences, and maybe that will deter her from using drugs and focus on things like sports or running." Lately, Louise's daughter has shown a growing interest in running races, taking after her marathoner mother. 

Louise says she and her partner won’t change the way they treat cannabis in front of their daughter if the state’s legalization initiative passes in November. “We say that it is medicine for Daddy and Mommy to be okay. The way we treat or explain it won’t change,” she told The Fix. “We tell her she is not allowed to do it until she is an adult.”

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