Parenting about pot: Strategies for discussing cannabis with kids

ORLANDO, Fla – Whether you call it pot, Mary Jane, cannabis, or marijuana, more and more teens are trying it. According to the National Institutes of Health, about one in seven teens reports using pot in the past month.

With the growing legalization of marijuana, talking to kids about pot has become different and more complicated for many parents.

It comes as gummies, cookies, brownies, vapes, and the old fashion joint. Just about any way you want it, you can get it. Today, 38 states have legalized medical marijuana. Twenty-three states have okayed it for recreational use.

“What college kids have absorbed is it’s legalized because it’s fine for you. But it actually does have risks,” said Dr. Jessi Gold, a psychiatrist at Washington University in St. Louis’ School of Medicine.

Marijuana can negatively affect IQ, mood, sleep, memory, concentration, and motivation. It’s also been linked to many mental health conditions.

The pot today is also stronger than ever. In the mid-1990s, the average concentration of THC in cannabis samples was 4%. Today, some products have THC levels higher than 90%. Pot today could also contain other dangerous drugs.

“Marijuana is often laced with things -- like fentanyl,” Gold said.

Experts say it’s important to start talking to your kids about pot early on, ideally around fourth or fifth grade, and make it many conversations instead of just one. Let them know that their safety and health is your No. 1 priority.

If they are ever in trouble, let them know they can always call you and make your expectations clear. Research showed having specific rules relating to pot results in lower use among adolescents.

When it comes to sharing your own experiences with pot, the partnership to end addiction discourages parents from lying. It says that they should avoid giving more information than necessary.

Also, parents can emphasize that using pot at a young age can impact their brains. In fact, an NIH study found that teens who frequently smoke pot had lower IQs by up to eight points.