How to Talk About Marijuana

Where do you start? What do you say? We’re here to help. Between legalization, increased normalization in pop culture and new ways of using (edibles, vaporizers, concentrates), it’s becoming more and more complicated to know how to address marijuana use with your kids.

Start with a Better Understanding of Marijuana and the Teen Brain

The parts of the adolescent brain that develop first are those responsible for physical coordination, emotion and motivation. However, the part of the brain that controls reasoning and impulses — known as the prefrontal cortex — does not fully mature until the age of 25.

It’s as if, while the other parts of the brain are shouting, the prefrontal cortex is not quite ready to play referee. This can have noticeable effects on behavior, such as:

  • Difficulty holding back or controlling emotions
  • A preference for high-excitement and low-effort activities
  • Poor planning and judgment (rarely thinking of negative consequences)
  • More risky, impulsive behaviors, including experimenting with drugs and alcohol

So during the teen and young adult years, your child is especially susceptible to the negative effects of any drug use, including marijuana. Evidence has shown that marijuana use during the teen years could potentially lower a person’s IQ and interfere with other aspects of functioning and well-being. Even the occasional use of pot can cause teens to engage in risky behavior, find themselves in vulnerable situations and make bad choices while under the influence.

Download the Marijuana Talk Kit

For a comprehensive discussion guide, including common teen questions and suggested responses, download our complete Marijuana Talk Kit.

Marijuana Talk Kit

Get in the Right Frame of Mind

Whether planning to discuss marijuana or other substance use, the following are keys to setting the stage for an effective conversation:

  • Keep an open mind. When a child feels judged or condemned, they will be less receptive to the message. Try to project objectivity and openness.
  • Put yourself in your kid’s shoes. How would you prefer to be addressed when speaking about a difficult topic? Try to remember how you felt as a teen.
  • Be clear about your goals. Know what you want to get from the conversation.
  • Be calm and relaxed. Approaching the conversation with anger or panic will make it harder to achieve your goals.
  • Be positive. Approaching the situation with shame, anger or scare tactics will be counter-productive. Aim for curious, respectful and understanding.
  • Don’t lecture. It will most likely lead to shutting down, tuning you out, anger or worse.
  • Find a comfortable setting. Announcing a sit-down meeting will likely be met with resistance, while a more spontaneous, casual approach will lower anxiety (including your own).
  • Be aware of body language. Finger-pointing and crossed arms are closed gestures, while uncrossed legs and a relaxed posture are more open.

What Do I Say?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a script for talking about marijuana, but there are some common arguments and questions that you’re likely to hear — and suggestions for how to respond.

They say: “I’m only doing it once in awhile on weekends, so it’s not a big deal.”
You could say: “What would make it feel like a big deal to you?”
Why this works: This gets them to think about the future, and what their boundaries are. It will give you insight into what’s important to him or her. If use progresses and some of these boundaries are crossed, you can bring that up at a later date.

They say: “Would you rather I drink alcohol? Weed is so much safer.”
You could say: “Honestly, I don’t want you doing anything that can harm you. I’m interested in knowing why you think weed is safer than alcohol.”
Why this works: This reminds your child that you care about his or her well-being. Expressing genuine curiosity about their thought process is going to help them open up.

Bottom Line:

The drug landscape will continue to change with the times, but the one thing that will remain constant is the need for support and information when raising a child. You’re the most important, and most powerful influence in your child’s life. We’re here to help you along the way.