Culture

“Smarter than you think:” How to Talk to Your Kids About Weed

avatar Ngaio Bealum / Sep 10, 2020

“BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?!!” 

This is the battle cry of concern-troll prohibitionists. It’s not that they hate cannabis or the idea of personal freedom and autonomy, you see. It’s just that they are so worried about our precious children and what might happen if cannabis is legalized that they have to keep people in jail for using a plant that has many beneficial properties. 

We know this line is bullshit because studies show that in states with legal weed, teens use cannabis less often. And it ignores the fact that cannabis use is objectively less dangerous than nicotine or alcohol. Education is always better than prohibition. Always. 

So: How do you talk to your children about cannabis? Glad you asked. Here’s the answer: The same way you talk to them about booze or cigarettes or any other thing that adults get to do. 

When I was in fourth grade, our teacher spent like two weeks talking to us about drugs. All the drugs. Weed. Booze. LSD. Cocaine. All of it. She read us stories about people that had good experiences and bad experiences. She told us about the effects both good and bad. She also made it clear that recreational drugs had no place in childhood development. 

Now, I was a fourth grader in San Francisco in the seventies, so I am sure her curriculum was vastly different than other schools in the country, but those two weeks (and both my parents giving me a full on lecture when my mom caught eighth grade me the first time I tried to smoke weed) kept me away from drug use until college. 

I talked to my kids about drugs hella early. Probably around first grade. Since I was a full on cannabis user and legalization activist at this point, there was no way I could tell them “DRUGS ARE BAD! JUST SAY NO, MMM-KAY?”, So I made a reasonable request: Don’t start experimenting with drugs until you get to college. Once you’re there, be moderate with the alcohol, and avoid pills. It worked. My kids took my advice, and everyone is healthy and happy and sometimes a little stoned.

But maybe you feel weird talking to your kids about drugs. Not to worry. There are some books out that will help you. Ricardo Cortés published “It’s Just a Plant” in 2005. It’s a good book full of information about the cannabis plant and why adults might use cannabis but children shouldn’t. He also illustrated the bestseller “Go The Fuck To Sleep,” so there’s that.

While the book was considered to be more than a little controversial when it came out 15 years ago, these days, the subject matter isn’t as problematic as it once was. “It’s a picture book for kids.,” Cortés said in a recent interview with High Times. ” It’s for parents to help discuss marijuana with their kids. It’s for parents who use marijuana, and it’s for parents who do not use marijuana, never will, and who want to keep the plant as far away as they can from their children, for as long as possible. It’s just a book to help hold a smart conversation about the plant.”

Susan Soares

More recently, cannabis activist Susan Soares released a new book called “What’s Growing in Grandma’s Garden,” an illustrated book for kids about Grandma showing the kids her veggie garden. Grandma also happens to be growing a little medical cannabis in a locked greenhouse in her yard. As one does. 

I called Ms. Soares at her home in Santa Barbara and she told me she got the idea after attending some city council meetings about legalization. People kept asking “BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?!!” 

Her answer: “What about terrorism? What about pharmaceutical drugs? Fucking talk to your kids about it. That’s it.”  She told me the book is based on the time her grandkids came to visit and saw her throw a few cannabis leaves into her blender while making a smoothie. “He wanted to know what I was doing so I told him. He wanted to know why some things are only for grown ups so I told him that his brain is still growing, and he should only give his brain the best things and food so he could have a brain like a super computer when he grew up.” 

Since she self published her book, she didn’t expect to sell many copies, but talk-show host Jimmy Fallon found a copy of it and talked about it during a segment of his show called “Do Not Read.”  Fallon pokes fun at the book, but that brief exposure created so much interest that sales exploded and her printing press company is having a hard time keeping pace with the demand. 

I asked her for advice on how to talk to children about cannabis. Her response: “I would advise people to understand that their children are way smarter than they think. You could go as deep as you want or keep it as light as you want. If you don’t talk to them,  it’s really detrimental to your relationship, especially if you use cannabis, because they know if you’re consuming cannabis, and if you don’t talk to them you’re teaching them to keep secrets.” 

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Ngaio Bealum
Culture columnist