In a country where cannabis is now a legal substance, there are day-to-day challenges that families (and parents of young children and teens in particular) are beginning to face. Since recreational cannabis became legal in 2018, many moms and dads are asking themselves the same questions: Is cannabis okay for my adult children? How do I talk to my kids about it? What do they need to know from me and what can they learn on their own?

As with any difficult topic, it’s recommended to begin with the facts and educate your children to the best of your ability. When you’re planning to have “the cannabis talk” with your kids, we suggest focusing on three key areas to start:

  1. Laws and regulations
  2. Health
  3. Safety

Sticking to these pillars to begin will help you reach your child in the ways that are most important to their future with abstinence or safe cannabis use.

Laws and regulations

Give your child the basics first: namely, teach them that cannabis is reserved for the use of adults only. Legal cannabis comes with the benefit of age requirements, rules, and laws. Since these regulations change from province to province—and cannabis is still an illegal substance in most parts of the world—we recommend you provide your children with information on cannabis’ legal status within your community and how this change affects them and their daily lives. It is now legal to grow four marijuana plants. It is now legal to carry 30 grams of cannabis. It is now legal to consume cannabis usually in respect of each individual Province’s Smoke Free Acts.

Health

Cannabis can have negative side effects on the mental and emotional development of minors. Particularly, it may cause adverse effects on the frontal cortex, which is responsible for judgement and decision-making, and the body’s endocannabinoid system, which plays a part in a child’s development of cortical neuronal networks. Practically speaking, if a young person chooses to use cannabis before their neural development is complete, they are risking the strength of their cognitive processes in the short- and long-term. At CAFE we politely recommend waiting as long as possible before consuming recreational cannabis.

Much like alcohol can alter the body and mind, so too can cannabis. Ensure your child understands that cannabis use is not in their best interest until later in life, and provide them the tools to discover more. We recommend spending time researching cannabis’ effects on adolescents and children with your kids. Taking the time to read together and field questions will make your child feel more included in the learning process.

Safety

Closely tied to health and the legal status of cannabis, safety is the third pillar we recommend you touch on with your children when you speak about cannabis.

Let’s say, for instance, you enjoy cannabis by smoking joints or eating THC- or CBD-infused edibles. This is where your child’s safety and understanding comes in. Show your child a child-safety bag and educate them on how to read the warning labels found on most cannabis packaging. Tools like these will help demonstrate to your child that cannabis is a restricted substance to those underage, much like alcohol.

In addition to teaching your children about packaging, offer up information on safe dosing, how cannabis can harm them, and how they should handle themselves when faced with the choice to partake in cannabis use in the future.

For more resources on safe cannabis use and education, visit Canada.ca.

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