By: The Mommy Jane
When it comes to cannabis legalization, the first question that comes to most minds is: “Will our youth be more likely to use cannabis once it’s legalized?” What may come to a surprise to us is that the answer is both “yes” and “no”. What the research shows me, as adults and parents, we are the ones in control of that outcome. Early this year, recreational use of cannabis became legal for adults 21 and older in California, which is where my husband and I currently raise our two girls. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and witnessed the first legalized cannabis for medical use, in 1996, which is when I started middle school. Though I was young and impressionable during those years, I never felt the need to abuse the use of the plant because I was educated on the healing properties and boundaries at an early age. And that is exactly where I believe the secret lies for our children’s future with cannabis as medicine: education.
Currently, medicinal or recreational use of cannabis by adults is legal in 29 states and the District of Columbia. Medical use for minors, with parental consent, is legal in a few of those states. However, when it comes to the topic of cannabis legalization nationwide, parents and pediatricians alike have always been concerned with the notion that it may increase exposure for children and teens, either intentional or accidental.
California cannabis companies have spent millions of dollars in recent years to convert or keep the packaging compliant and designed for responsible adult use. There are countless events and campaigns within the cannabis industry to further educate the patients and producers of cannabis to prevent unintentional use amongst children and teens. But where is the nationwide education? Where is this “real talk”? This lacking approach has lead me to believe we are blaming the wrong people for children’s cannabis consumption. Responsible cannabis use has nothing to do with the plant or the products. When it comes to prevention, it starts with education and that starts at home.
As with anything we now read on the internet, there are conflicting statistics on childhood cannabis use. One article stated that between 2006 and 2013, the percentage of cannabis exposures among children aged five and younger increased by 148 percent. Adding that the number of young children accidentally exposed to cannabis increased every year from 2013 through 2016. Yet, in recent years (2016-present) adolescent cannabis use has fallen nationwide.
So why are we seeing a decrease in teen use in some states and not others? There are serious penalties to selling cannabis to minors, perhaps that plays a big role in the decline? Maybe it’s because cannabis companies in legalized states are educating the consumers now more than ever before? So how do we keep that number of minors using cannabis from going back up? How do we future proof our children and our medicine?
The problem isn’t just about children consuming cannabis edibles at an alarming rate. The problem is why isn’t there more education on the benefits and proper use of this plant nationally? Why aren’t parents having this discussion? Tobacco and alcohol are both understood to be harmful, especially if used in excess. As a parent, it is our responsibility to start the conversation. Parents need to talk about the pros and cons of cannabis and the difference between medical and recreational use. It is not up to us to tell them what’s right and wrong. We have to arm them with facts so that they can make better decisions for their future. When we normalize cannabis with our children, we normalize it for our future.