Marijuana legalization makes tough conversations harder for teens
Colorado Public Radio
Originally published: March 18, 2014
By Jenny Brundin
The legalization of marijuana isn’t just affecting adults who can now legally buy and use pot. Recreational marijuana is also having an impact on those who cannot visit a store, primarily teenagers.
Parents and educators in the Denver area say legalization has reduced the stigma around using pot and made it easier than ever for young people to get their hands on the drug. And at the same time, the growing variety of ways marijuana can be consumed – through innocent-looking candies and easily-hidden vaporizers – makes it that much harder for adults to spot.
All these changes are leaving some parents at a loss for words when it comes to talking with their teenagers about marijuana.
“A lot of my students can talk their parents out of being concerned,” Denver Public Schools and Denver Public Health educator Mandy Copeland says. “Teens are tricky. They can talk their way out of a lot so it’s really good for parents to be empowered and informed.”
And the information can be frightening.
Carolyn Howard watched her nephew struggle and now discusses with her teenage children the psychological consequences of marijuana.
“I don’t know – and you don’t know – if you’re going to be the kid who tries it once and doesn’t need it or tries it once and feels like it’s going to solve all your problems and you need to have it,” Howard says of the advice she gives to her children.
For many parents, a drug talk is made trickier by their own conflicted feelings on the subject. They find themselves struggling to find the right thing to say to keep their kids from experimenting.
Health educator Mandy Copeland’s says parents should not “fess up” if their kids ask whether or not they’ve tried marijuana.
Copeland points to a study of 650 teens that found children whose parents stayed mum about past drug use, and who delivered a strong anti-drug message, were much more likely to develop anti-drug attitudes of their own.
“Teens just don’t have the capacity at this age to process that information,” Copeland says. “And I think parents often share that information out of good will to say: ‘I made some mistakes. Hopefully you don’t make these as well.’ But when in fact teens really can’t process it, and instead say, ‘oh well, my parents did it, they’re functioning health adults, so I’ll be OK.'”