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Parents struggle with how to talk children about marijuana following legalization efforts

Many caregivers are looking for factual information so that they can have meaningful conversations

Photo (c) Brand X Pictures - Getty Images
With the legalization of marijuana reaching several states across the country, many parents have taken the time to consider how this will affect their parenting style and their children’s lives.

According to a recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Washington, most parents are looking for information from legitimate sources to share with their children, while also setting rules about drug use.

“What I heard a lot of parents saying is, essentially, ‘I can tell my kids not to use it, but I just don’t know how to enforce and reinforce that message,’” said researcher Nicole Eisenberg. “Parents are having a hard time reconciling societal norms with personal norms. Society has become more permissive, but at home, most parents don’t want their children to use marijuana. It’s a challenge that leaves them feeling like they don’t know what to do.”

Figuring out what works

The researchers conducted focus group interviews with over 50 parents to gauge their feelings and attitudes regarding marijuana use -- both their own and their children’s. The parents were then separated based on their own past marijuana use to see if previous history with the drug would spark trends among how the parents think of their children’s habits.

The groups discussed setting boundaries for children, whether or not parents should share their own history with marijuana, and potential risks. Many parents wanted their children to have as much information on the subject as possible, and the researchers reported that sharing with each other was beneficial for the parents.

“In many ways, parenting around marijuana use is similar to that of alcohol use, since they’re both legal for adults,” said researcher Rick Kosterman. “A key difference is where I think parents and society in general have accepted that some people can become dependent on alcohol and it can ruin people’s lives if used in excess. Parents and kids aren’t so clear about risks of marijuana use -- like the potential for misuse or effects on adolescent brains.”

The biggest takeaway from the focus groups was that information is key for both parents and their children. The researchers gave all parents suggestions on how to get answers for any questions regarding marijuana use that could pop up over time, including school programs, public health agencies, and healthcare providers.

“The fact that parents in this study openly asked for guidance highlights an opportunity for the prevention science community to work with medical professionals, schools, and policymakers to fulfill this vital need at a critical time of policy transition in the United States,” the researchers wrote.

Societal changes

As more states are looking to legalize marijuana, it’s important for consumers to take note of how this could change other parts of day-to-day life.

The Food and Drug Administration is looking to find ways to legally sell drinks and food infused with CBD oil, and Coca-Cola has been exploring options to hop on board. However, a recent study has also showed how states that legalized weed -- and bordering towns -- have seen an increase in traffic fatalities in the months immediately following legalization.

“The effect of cannabis legislation on traffic fatalities is a growing public health concern,” Dr. Tyler Lane. “The results suggest that legalizing the sale of cannabis for recreational use can lead to a temporary increase in traffic fatalities in legalizing states. This spills over into neighboring jurisdictions through cross-border sales, trafficking, or cannabis tourists driving back to their state of residence while impaired.”

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