Parents Find Talking With Kids About Drugs Complicated by Legalization Measures

Parents are finding it more difficult to have discussions with their children about why they shouldn’t use drugs, as a growing number of states are allowing medical marijuana, or considering legalizing recreational use of the drug, the Associated Press reports.

Colorado and Washington state will vote on legalizing recreational use of marijuana for adults on November 6. Currently, 17 states have legalized medical marijuana. More than a dozen states, and many cities, no longer have criminal penalties for small-scale possession of marijuana, or have made it a low-priority crime for law enforcement.

Parent-child conversations about marijuana “have become extraordinarily complicated,” said Stephen Pasierb, President of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, a national non-profit organization helping parents and families solve the problem of teen substance abuse. Legalization and medical use of marijuana have “created a perception among kids that this is no big deal,” Pasierb said. “You need a calm, rational conversation, not yelling and screaming, and you need the discipline to listen to your child.”

Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which promotes marijuana legalization, said that since today’s parents are more likely than in the past to have tried the drug themselves, they are finding conversations with their children “are becoming a lot more real.” He told the AP, “Parents know a lot more about what they’re talking about, and kids probably suspect that their parents did this when they were younger and didn’t get in trouble with drugs. There’s still hypocrisy, but the level of honesty and frankness in the parent-child dialogue about marijuana is increasing every year.”

A survey released last month by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids suggests teen marijuana use has become a normalized behavior. Only 26 percent agree with the statement, “In my school, most teens don’t smoke marijuana,” down from 37 percent in 2008.

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    June 22, 2012 at 2:22 PM

    I really like the video on Marijuana done by National Geographic. Youth believe that they are seeing “no harm” from marijuana and seeing or experiencing positive effects (i.e. creativity). This video provides a balanced view of the effects of marijuana. Coupled with knowledge of brain development in the adolescent, I think it would give parents plenty of information for talking to their children. (The talk, of course, should be developmentally appropriate)

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    Allan Barger

    June 22, 2012 at 11:41 AM

    Mr. Nadelmann’s suggestion that it is “hypocrisy” for parents to tell their children not to do something they did speaks volumes about either his political agenda, his lack of parenting expertise or both. I did a number of things as a teenager that I will absolutely forbid my children to do while they are in my care. This includes driving too fast, driving too fast when angry, sneaking cigarettes and a host of other things. Parents should not be labeled as hypocrites for having learned from their experiences and their maturity that some things are beneficial and some are not. Moreover, we know a good deal more about marijuana now than we did then. It is not as benign as your Internet would have you believe and it is not harmless. We should be setting the expectation for our children that they will not be getting high on anything, that they will learn to deal with life on life’s terms and give them the skills to do it. To suggest that parents are hypocrites for doing so, regardless of their past, is insulting.

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