Since Californians voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana last November, many parents and educators have been wondering how to talk with teens about drug use and prevent abuse now that voters have given lighting up a green light.
Proposition 64, also called the California Marijuana Legalization Initiative, is creating a cloud of questions for parents and confusion for teens who grew up with a clear policy of zero drug use in their homes. But instead of viewing the initiative with apprehension, parents can appreciate the opportunity to engage in dialogue that reinforces family values and ensures your teens are compliant with the law. Here’s how to get the conversation started:
Know the law
Perhaps the most-important provision is that it’s still illegal for minors under 21 to use, possess, buy, give, sell, grow or transport marijuana without a medical marijuana exemption. It’s also forbidden to give or sell marijuana to anyone under 21, and it remains illegal to smoke, vape or ingest marijuana in public places and while driving or even riding in a vehicle.
How marijuana affects teens
Parents can take comfort in knowing they can guide teens away from marijuana use by stressing that even recreational use is legal only for adults 21 and older.
However, teens are only a few years away from making these decisions for themselves. Like underage alcohol use, marijuana use can seem alluring. After all, if it’s legal for adults to light up or vape, why can’t teens?
As it turns out, marijuana affects still-growing teens differently than adults, altering the parts of the brain that work on learning, memory and attention. Using marijuana and driving can increase the risk of a crash, and combining it with alcohol or other drugs worsens the risk. You also may be surprised to learn that although only 9 percent of users become dependent, the risk nearly doubles for those who start as teens.
Tips for talking with your teens
Study after study confirms that parents are the most influential people in their teens’ lives – even if your teenager seems to act as if this is not the case. This distinction gives you the knowledge to help teens make the right choices, starting with these tips:
- Be there. Talk and listen to your kids about how their lives are going.
- Model responsible attitudes and behaviors around substance use.
- Have clear rules and consequences regarding alcohol and drugs.
- Know the “who, what, when and where” when your child goes out.
- Get to know your kid’s friends’ parents and begin a dialogue with them: “I’ll keep your child safe from alcohol and drugs at my house. Can you do the same?”
- Help your child practice how to deal with peer pressure. Settle on a code word or phrase teens could use during a call or in a text to alert you that they’re in an uncomfortable situation and need you to help or pick them up.
By using these strategies, you can turn marijuana legalization into teachable moments for your…