As with Alcohol, Ongoing Discussion with Youth about Cannabis Use Prepares Them to Make Their Own Decisions
Now that legalized cannabis is available for adult use, the conversation is changing between parents and youth about cannabis use.
“Kids are smart and they’re watching everything and everyone,” said Ashleigh Brown. Brown is the founder of SheCann, at a “Women & Weed” event on January 26. The organization was launched to allow women in Canada to talk about medical cannabis. The impact on the family is an important topic. “The conversations should be about authenticity and honesty.”
That’s not always easy for some parents. Trying to explain the concept of going from illegal to legal is difficult enough. Then there is the fact that at first only medical cannabis was legal, and now all adult use. Brown experienced this personally: she started using medical cannabis in 2016. Her daughters only knew it as medicine. Now, Brown said, cannabis use should be discussed with youth in the same way as alcohol, stressing it’s only for adults. Cannabis storage and use should use the same level of discretion.
“There is a difference between discretion and hiding,” said Brown. “Hiding encourages stigma because it is something that you keep from people. Having discretion is about responsible use.”
Further, the discussion about cannabis use with youth should be ongoing. “Hiding” the conversation is just as detrimental, adding to the stigma of cannabis use. Most importantly, it leaves children unprepared to make their own informed decisions when they are in a situation where cannabis is present. Now that cannabis edibles are on the horizon, it’s more important than ever so that kids understand t which edibles are just for parents.
Youth Cannabis Use Can Lead to Mental Health Issues
Where cannabis and alcohol differ is that there is some evidence to suggest that youth cannabis use can essentially cause brain injury. Symptoms include losing the ability to concentrate and decreased memory skills. Alcohol also has effects on the young mind, but cannabis may have a more profound impact. The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction reported that there is also a connection between cannabis use in youth and mental illness including serious conditions such as schizophrenia.
The centre also states in a 2015 report that regular youth cannabis use is associated with experiencing psychotic symptoms and developing schizophrenia. This is especially true among those who have a family history of it.
(Now that cannabis use is legalized, it opens up new opportunities for cannabis research, which may help us better understand the impact of youth cannabis use.)
The bottom line is that parents need to discuss cannabis use with youth as a way to prepare them and ultimately protect them. Knowledge helps youth make better decisions.
“My job is to be a responsible user and store it responsibly and have these conversations,” Brown said. “I want to have a dialogue with my kids about this.”
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