By now, you will have heard, no matter where you live in the world, that Canada has officially legalized the possession and use of marijuana for adults.
Truth be told, October 17th was not something I marked down on my calendar to remember, but it was clearly a “high-light” for many. See? It doesn’t take long to crack a joke about the significant event that will now be marked in Canadian history for future generations.
Canada is now a place where people can go to the store and purchase up to 30 grams to have on them in public, and up to 150 grams in their home. On the 17th, people were lined up for hours in downtown Montreal, waiting to get their hands on the first grams of this legalized drug.
While each province has slightly different laws, here in Quebec, the legal age is 18 years old to consume, purchase and possess weed. It is illegal to possess marijuana on the grounds of daycares or any educational centers (from preschool to college). And as far as the workplace goes, an employer will have the right to regulate or prohibit it, to respect health and safety in the workplace.
Now that history has been made, is it something to be proud of?
Now that this date and law will be marked in our history books, is it something Canada will be proud of, or will it be one of the dates we will dread remembering when it all began? It’s hard to say. I thought I would find more information on the cause and effect by reading about the Netherlands. I mean, everyone knows Amsterdam is the place to buy marijuana legally, right? After doing some research, the Netherlands actually do not have a full legalized action for cannabis. While the use of medicinal weed was legalized in in 2003, it has only been made available for recreational use in what is known as “coffeeshops” since 1976, and only in those locations. So, this new legalization for the whole country of Canada is really going to be a pioneer act that can hopefully be one with little repercussions. Only time will tell.
What Can We Tell Our Kids About Marijuana?
Lucky for us, our children have grown up to understand that smoking cigarettes is bad for their health; a far different message our parents received when cigarettes were suddenly legally available. But because weed has been legalized by our Prime Minister, a man that my children already respect and admire, we need to explain why this was done.
Just like my mindset for not burying our heads in the sand when it comes to online safety, I feel this is an important topic to address to young children. If you are approaching your child with love and care, any topic can be had. The reality is this is now legal for young adults, 18 and over, so ignoring the subject will not make it go away. So how can you approach this subject with young children?
1. You know your child better than anyone on earth. You know how they will react to things and what they are ready to learn about depending on their personality. How you handle this discussion will be mainly based on that. Opening up the conversation will help you understand where your child is coming from and to what level you need to explain things. While talking to a five-year-old about weed as a form of medicinal drug is not important, it might feel important to an older child who perhaps knows someone who is sick and can use that form of medication. For concrete suggestions on talking to your child at different ages, visit drugfree.org to read Prevention Tips for Every Age.
2. Know the facts. I can bet that no 18-year-old is looking up health risks to weed right now. And ideally, we as parents can tell our much-younger children the health risks now, so they will understand it earlier on, before they come of legal age. For example, did you know that the brain is still developing up until age 25? Why does this matter? Because marijuana directly impacts the way the brain functions with regards to learning, attention and memory. So, the younger you start using, the bigger impact it will have to your developing brain. The Government of Canada issued a stat that 1 in 10 people who use cannabis will become addicted to it. And the number increases to 1 in 6 if a person starts using as a teenager.
On the website, drugfree.org, the effects of drugs are explained simply:
“Drugs overload the body with dopamine — in other words, they cause the reward system to send too many “feel-good” signals. In response, the body’s brain systems try to right the balance by letting fewer of the “feel-good” signals through. As time goes on, the body needs more of the drug to feel the same high as before. This effect is known as tolerance, and it can be especially dangerous in the cases of drugs like heroin and cocaine.”
This same dopamine increase is shown in social media when kids get likes and comments on their posts. And the same downer occurs when they get negative comments or not enough likes to their standards.
Even tweens are dealing with a change in their hormones and therefore are testing out different scenarios, getting irate over new things and learning to calm themselves down emotionally. Adding drugs into that mix will not allow them to learn those basic strategies before their brain is fully developed.
3. Know where you stand as a parent and a family with regards to drugs. You will have some parents feeling completely OK with this new legalization, while others might be outraged. None of that matters in your home. Just like how you handle social drinking, this boils down to deciding what you as a family unit are comfortable with, and what rules and consequences there are in your own family (parents included). And knowing the facts will help you in deciding that as a parent. Be very mindful of your own choices; as your young child grows, they are watching you. There are so many ways to have teachable moments. Just the other night, we served wine at dinner to the adults and I didn’t drink, because I knew I had to drive later that night. So, I explained that to my boys. In the simplest form, for your young child, explain to them what is right and not right when it comes to marijuana, just as you would with smoking and alcohol. Young children need to know what to look out for and recognize what marijuana is, just as they would a cigarette or a glass of wine.
4. Be ready for questions. Who remembers the public service ad in the 90’s “This is your brain, this is your brain on drugs” with the frying egg? Well it got an update:
Young children might not even understand what this is all about, while older tweens might know friends with older brothers or sisters that have already had their go of this new substance. Engage in a conversation not a scare tactic. No young, curious mind was ever scared away from drinking when they came of legal age. The same applies here. Right now, your child looks up to you and trusts you above all others. If you can have an honest discussion about marijuana now, the better off you will be with your child and their comfort in coming to you as they get older.
One last link to share with you is the newly updated CBC Kids News (we love it!). They recently did a video with one of their young reporters and for tweens and teens, this could be a great starting point for this topic and many others:
Disclaimer: This post was written strictly speaking as a family blogger and parent of three young boys and not a child psychologist. I hope this can help you in some ways. And I hope, if anything, you begin a conversation to educate your child on this new legalized substance so that when the time comes for them to legally purchase weed, they will be well informed and make decisions they will be comfortable and safe with. This is not a sponsored post of any kind, all opinions are my own.