Now that cannabis is legal in Canada, many a parent will be dreading having that awkward conversation with their kids.
Many of the hysterical myths of the prohibition era have been dispelled, and finally the smoke is beginning to clear around the real pros and cons of cannabis. While many teens and parents believe that cannabis isn’t as bad as alcohol, the fact remains that cannabis does come with some risks, and those risks are magnified in young people.
While government-regulated cannabis retailers may adhere to strict age regulations, the same can’t be said for the black market. Government figures show that up to 32% of young people aged 15-24 reported using cannabis in August-September 2019.
So, whether you like it or not, it’s a certainty that – at some stage – your kids are going to come into contact with cannabis. Better that you figure out your game plan and step up to shape the narrative – before someone else does.
What’s the professional advice?
Professional sources agree that it’s better to discuss cannabis with your kids rather than leaving it to schools, peers, and the internet. Experts at Children’s Hospital Colorado suggest broaching the topic around age 10, but advise that it’s ok to talk about it earlier if your child asks questions.
If you’ve got no idea where to even start with this, groups like Drug Free Kids Canada are there to point you in the right direction. Despite the distinctly “anti” name, the group provide some powerful and common-sense approaches for how to navigate this difficult topic with your teenager:
Remain open minded and listen
Judging or condemning your child about using cannabis is likely to be counterproductive. It’s important to remain objective and give your child the chance to express themselves. Instead of laying down the law, try asking open-ended questions and actively listening
Empathize with your child
We were all teenagers, not so long ago, so try to think back about how you’d have liked a difficult topic to be raised with you and approach the topic in that way. Going in with all guns blazing is likely to result in slammed bedroom doors and ignored parents. Above all, try to…
…stay calm and positive
Getting angry and shouting at your child is an automatic fail when it comes to this kind of talk. If someone explodes in your face, you’ll quickly lose interest in what they have to say. Teenagers are no different, so it’s up to you to keep your head, even if your child’s response is less than positive.
What do I say?
The right approach will depend on factors like your child’s age and their experience with cannabis. The first thing to consider is your goal: what are you trying to achieve – abstinence or a responsible relationship? If your child is of legal age to consume cannabis, it’s a whole different conversation than you would have with a ten year old.
It’s understandable if you don’t want your kids to use cannabis at all. Preaching outright abstinence and not going into the details about cannabis might be tempting. However, “just say no” won’t work on every child, and less so if you’re a cannabis consumer yourself. In that case, you basically have no option other than to have a very honest conversation with your kids about why you choose to partake.
Regardless of whether you or your kids are currently using cannabis, as a parent in today’s Canada, you’re doing your kids a disservice if you don’t educate them about responsible cannabis use. Let’s go over a few points to consider when you raise this issue with your teenager.
Responsible Cannabis Consumption
Safest methods of consuming
Smoking cannabis flower or hash – whether in a joint, pipe, or bong – is one of the riskiest types of consumption cannabis. Combustion means that smoking cannabis carries many of the same health concerns as smoking tobacco. Mixing tobacco with cannabis magnifies the risks and should be strongly discouraged.
Parents who are concerned for their child’s health might consider advising them to choose a safer method of consumption, such as vaping.
Herbal Vaporizers work by heating cannabis to a temperature high enough to evaporate the active ingredients ready to be inhaled, but not high enough to burn. The lack of combustion makes vaping cannabis a better choice health-wise compared to smoking.
As the name suggests, cannabis concentrates are the concentrated active ingredients from cannabis, and come in varieties such as wax, shatter, and rosin, etc. Concentrates are very strong, with the most potent weighing in at a whopping 90% or more THC.
Concentrates are usually consumed using a dab rig or dab pen. Dabbing typically involves very little or no burning, compared to smoking. However, like edibles, it’s easy to consume too much and have an uncomfortable experience, so caution should be emphasized.
Cannabis vape cartridges and vape liquid
Cannabis vape cartridges typically contain cannabis concentrates, sometimes diluted with other natural components from the cannabis plant, like terpenes.
A wave of hospitalizations caused by cases of “vaping pneumonia” in the US put vaping in the spotlight in 2019. As of writing, authorities had largely narrowed down the culprits to black market cannabis vape cartridges, which are not subject to the same rigorous standards of testing.
Many of the black market cartridges turned up by authorities contained high levels of an additive – vitamin E acetate – which they believe to be the culprit. If your child is using vape cartridges, make sure they know to only consume vape cartridges sourced directly from a licensed cannabis retailer.
Like vaping, edibles sidestep many of the risks involved in smoking cannabis and can be a better choice than smoking for health-conscious consumers. However, edibles come with their own risks. Some Canadian provinces have seen large numbers of children hospitalized after consuming edibles.
The issue comes down to the ease with which large doses of cannabis can be consumed in edible form, and the delay in onset of their effects. If your legal-age is using edibles, make sure to emphasize the importance of using the smallest dose available – usually 5 or 10mg of THC – and waiting 2-3 hours before topping up.
Moderation and appropriate consumption
Just like alcohol, it’s important to help your child understand what appropriate consumption means. Remember not to force your opinions down your child’s throat – instead, invite them to consider what responsible and appropriate consumption means to them.
Try to help your kids understand that there are appropriate times, places and situations to use cannabis. This could be tied into wider conversations around topics like budgeting and goal-setting.
While having this conversation with your kids might seem daunting, the fact is that you owe it to them. Even the most sheltered of Canadian kids are likely to encounter cannabis in their daily lives. As parents, it’s up to us to prepare them to enjoy a lifetime of responsible use or – if it’s their choice – informed abstinence.