The legalization of cannabis means the need for greater individual responsibility and introduces new challenges to people’s everyday lives. For example, parents who consume cannabis still face stigma and judgment, and as their children grow, they may find themselves in a bind. How does a parent tell their child or teen that they should not be consuming cannabis – both for legal and health reasons – while the parent is smoking, vaping, ingesting tinctures or eating edibles?

Before legalization, many parents waited to talk to their kids about drugs around the same time they talked to them about sex. The thought behind the timing of “The Conversation” was based on when parents thought their kids might encounter drugs at school or among their peers.

Times have changed, and talking about cannabis use should be done earlier and in a relaxed and candid manner. If a parent is personally consuming or even growing, the subject of cannabis should be part of normal conversation. Calling it cannabis versus marijuana helps align the plant with science and talking about it as a medicinal herb helps put the conversation in the same vein as telling them to stay out of the medicine chest.

Kids should be taught that adults may be allowed to use cannabis legally and it could be helpful to them from a health and wellness standpoint, but children should not try it until their brains are fully formed. Scientists say human brains are fully formed around 25 years of age. Until that time, healthy children tend to have healthy endocannabinoid systems that could be set off kilter if they consume at an earlier age.

For the more worldly or older kids, parents can let them know about the legal age along with the legal drinking age. Letting a teen know that if they want to try it, that they should let the parent know first to get more facts may not work out, but making the offer — and not passing judgment or punishment — can open the door to better communications. The key is to not make cannabis a forbidden or mysterious thing.

Starting a candid conversation about cannabis should be age appropriate. Parents should gauge their child’s knowledge level then go into a basic explanation about cannabis based on what their child says they know or what the parent thinks they should know.

Share facts instead of opinions. What cannabis is, what it does, how adults might use it, how it isn’t appropriate for most kids, but also talk about how it does help some kids with severe health conditions like epilepsy, Tourette’s, and autism. Look for educational videos online that lay out the basics of how cannabis can be used as medicine and why it is helpful to people from a health and wellness standpoint.

Don’t compare cannabis to other drugs or perpetuate the myth that using cannabis leads to harder drugs. Parents should let their kids ask any question and respond patiently. Kids need to see that it is no “big deal” to talk about cannabis with one or both parents and that the parents are willing and able to speak with them about it in a relaxed and open manner.

If a parent consumes cannabis, it is a healthier choice not to smoke cannabis in front of the kids and to be careful about consuming other forms of cannabis in excess.

Anyone with cannabis in the home should keep it under lock and key. Even if a parent believes they have open communication with their kids, cannabis products should not be accessible to them regardless of their age. Invest in a lockable stash bag or box and keep it completely out of reach of younger-aged children. Edibles can be kept in a locked box in the refrigerator or freezer as well.

Being a healthy, happy and relaxed parent is a good thing, and cannabis can help on that front. Being present and clear-headed around children is critical. Safety first.

Aliza Sherman lives in Anchorage, Alaska and has been involved in the cannabis industry since early 2016. She is the co-founder of Ellementa, an international network for women interested in cannabis for wellness. She is the author of a new book, “The Essential Guide to Cannabis and CBD: Optimizing Your Health With Nature’s Medicine” (Ten Speed Press).

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