Helping News                                                 July, 2015   Issue 85

​Even where it’s legal for parents to smoke pot: What about the kids?

Candace Junkin is the founder and head of the International Women's Cannabis Conference, which works to share the voices of women and mothers for the legalization of marijuana. She is photographed at her St. Mary's County, Md., home. 
(Reza A. Marvashti / For the Washington Post)
By Brigid Schulte June 6

Like the parent of any toddler and kindergartner, Jared wants to keep certain things out of reach.

Liquor is stored out of sight in a cupboard. The household cleaners are safely kept behind childproof locks. And the marijuana is stashed high on a shelf in a fireproof lockbox.

Evenings fall into a familiar routine. Family dinner. Baths. Then, after their daughters are snuggled in for the night, Jared slips out onto the back deck of their District apartment and smokes a now-legal bowl of marijuana.

“It relaxes me. And it helps me get perspective to see the big picture. I find that enjoyable,” said Jared, a rare parent in the District who was willing to talk openly about his marijuana use. He asked that his full name not be used because he is concerned about the impact on his children.

Jared said he and other pot-smoking parents he knows have one ironclad rule: They don’t smoke in front of their kids. Yet what will happen once the kids figure out Dad’s on the balcony getting high?
Marijuana sold by a local dealer in Washington. (Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post)

More than half the country supports legalizing marijuana, according to polls. But it’s this question — What about the kids? — that provokes unease, even outrage, and keeps many pot- using parents uncertain about how to navigate the “new normal” of legalized marijuana.

The stakes are high for both parents and kids. Even where the drug is legal, parental pot-smoking can be considered as a factor in child-neglect cases, just like alcohol. As a result, some parents have been accused of endangering their children and had them taken away by child protective service agencies.

There are fears that if parents reveal their use, teens will be more likely to give it a try, a phenomenon supported by research. And although the science is fairly new, some studies have found heavy marijuana use in adolescence can permanently disrupt key networks in the developing brain associated with memory and processing information.

“For parents, this is a confusing time. If they’re users, how are they going to talk to their kids?” said Matthew Kuehlhorn, founder of Community Thrive, a new organization in Colorado that helps facilitate such talks in an effort to prevent youth substance use. “This is a social culture change we haven’t seen the likes of since alcohol prohibition ended.”

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