When I was growing up in the 1990s, the answer to this question was simple: "just say no". The DARE program had us sing songs about standing up to peer pressure and sign pledge cards. They even had t-shirts. And what was one of the major drugs they told us to say no to? Marijuana. Now the DARE program has become nearly extinct after extensive reports have shown that the program is ineffectual. However, parents should still talk to their kids about drugs, especially marijuana, but in today's culture where medicinal marijuana is accepted as legitimate medical treatment and states (and countries) are legalizing recreational marijuana left and right, how exactly should that conversation go?
Parents are really asking these questions, according to Dr. Joan Simeo Munson, a counselor practicing in Colorado. She points out an interesting fact in her op-ed piece on the website EmpoweringParents.com. "Watching an illegal substance become legal...is an unusual occurrence in modern day society. No generation since the days of prohibition can recall this sort of transition...so it’s understandable that there are fears and concerns". She recommends that parents remind their children about the laws. In the United States, it is still illegal (as of this publication). And everywhere that it is legal, there are strict age requirements.
Children's Hospital of Colorado has similar advice. They remind parents that their children are likely to try marijuana at some point in their lives, so it is still important that parents have a sit-down with their kids. They recommend looking for opportunities to broach the subject, like passing a dispensary in the car. While they recommend that parents should have this conversation when their child is ten, if s/he asks about it at an earlier age, then parents should take that as an opportunity.
Another issue that parents should worry about is what could happen if they smoke pot themselves. Can they lose custody of their children, even if use is legal? According to the website fatherly.com, this is indeed a possibility. The website states that the most common way this happens is during contentious divorces when child custody is at stake. Nicholas Dowgul, a North Carolina-based divorce attorney explains it like this: “If it’s a really bitter divorce or separation, you may see one party that’s the non-marijuana user call Child Protective Services, or at the very least threaten to.” This is a relatively new issue in divorce law, so there aren't many cases to use as precedent. This still remains a contentious issue.
This is all great advice, yet we must remember that kids, especially teenagers, are not likely to listen to what their parents have to say but instead rely upon information primarily from their peers. As Dr. Munson points out, "Kids...may think they already know all the facts...through peer groups, but just as with sex and alcohol, many times their information is just false."
Children's Hospital Colorado has the following advice for concerned parents: "We cannot keep our children from interacting with the world, and cannot control their lives. We have to give them good information and trust they will make good decisions by creating a safe environment where everyone can speak openly, and by staying engaged in their lives." Now they just have to turn that advice into a catchy song.