Question the Cannasseur: Smoking Weed As a Parent

mom and dad swing child in sunset

The changing legalities of cannabis may present a moral dilemma in some situations and create questions regarding appropriate use. This week's question from Quora brings up one such controversial area of discussion.

While many parents in the past have lost custody of their children due to marijuana convictions, the age of legalization is looming, causing many parents to seek guidance on what's appropriate and what's not.

Here’s a question for parents who consume marijuana; what are your house rules when it comes to smoking weed? What’s the best way to approach it in front of your kids and how do you present it to them? Do you smoke in front of them? Any tips come to mind?

Despite being an outspoken cannabis advocate, I am a firm believer in preserving innocence in children. While I know, there are a lot worse things a kid can get into, a child's developing brain isn't ready for an influx of cannabinoids. Therefore, just like with prescriptions, alcohol, and even Tide pods – we need to protect our kids.

I was 34 when I started smoking cannabis again, recreationally, in 2008. At the time, my son was 12 years old, and we lived in Iowa – where marijuana was and still is highly illegal. As a professional woman working in the corporate world, I had a reputation and a career to uphold, so I kept my cannabis use very private. Most times, I would wait until my son was in bed and exhale the smoke through a homemade filter made from a paper towel tube and dryer sheets. Yet, I had no problem pouring myself a captain and coke or a glass of wine and drinking it in front of him.

I never forget when I had to explain to him I was a pot smoker. He was nearly 20 years old and moving back into my house – he was an adult, and I wasn't going to hide it anymore. Just a few months later we smoked together for the first time and had one of the greatest conversations I can remember in our entire relationship.

Naturally, now that my husband and I are living in Colorado, as medical cannabis patients, I don't hide it all. In fact, we host an Airbnb in the mountains and have strict rules against hosting anyone under the age of 18 – only because we entertain out-of-state guests who aren't familiar with the concept of legal cannabis. We've had one too many instances of people requesting we put away our "stash" to hide it from their children – as they sat with a cocktail in hand, sauced by 3 p.m.

I would never tell someone how to parent their children, but as a veteran cannabis consumer and responsible parent, please allow me to provide a few pointers from my experience:

Keep Cannabis Consumption Around Kids Appropriate

Whether you consume cannabis medically or recreationally, the key is in keeping it appropriate. Just as you wouldn’t whip out a flask in church, or get sloppy drunk at your eight-year old's birthday party, it's important to consider your surroundings. If consuming cannabis for you is taking a quick bite of an edible, or a vape off an odorless vape pen, and you can be discreet, then be discreet when children are present.

Explain It

My parents and grandparents all took a plethora of pills throughout my childhood, which was explained to me as medicine, which was necessary. Not all medications come in pill form, but they can be explained away in the same fashion. In the same manner, I remember being told, "You're not old enough," as my father poured another drink. My family never concealed their alcohol consumption.

Don't Be a Hypocrite

While you're worrying about marijuana consumption, worry about things like alcohol consumption, cigarette smoke, excessive pill-popping, or eating too much fast food. Alcohol, cigarettes, pharmaceuticals, and obesity kill more children than cannabis ever will.

I remember when my son was a teenager and he would leave the house, like the mother in "Almost Famous", I would shout "Don't do drugs!" as my son would leave the house, but in Iowa marijuana was considered a drug, so instead I started to shout, "Don't do meth!"

Keep Them Safe

Regardless of what substance you're consuming – legal or illegal – it is our responsibility as parents to ensure our kids are growing up in a safe environment. Lock up your booze, lock up your guns, and always lock up your weed. Putting it in a nightstand isn't good enough.

When my brother and cousin were toddlers in the late 60s, still in diapers, they snuck into my aunt's bedroom and ate an entire package of chocolate-candy Ex-Lax. My mom used to laugh so hard she would cry as she described those little boys running for the door, holding their little butts, with poo dripping a trail behind them. While this is a great story to tell, that over the counter medication could've killed them. Cannabis will not kill your child, but we don't want to take chances with their normal development, either.

Of course, we should all do our part to keep kids safe, but being discreet, explaining your consumption, keeping them safe, is much easier than trying to lie to them.