Passing the Cannabis Cup

Sara’s son is 14 years old. He’s a bright student finishing up his freshman year of high school. He is active on the basketball team, is serious about his schoolwork, and is an all around good kid.

And he smokes pot.

“I don’t know what to do,” Sara told me over lunch the other day, after revealing that this news just came to light.

Sara had asked her son why he did it, and he couldn’t come up with a definitive answer. All he could tell her was that he felt more relaxed when he did, that time slowed down, that food tasted better, that the music sounded better — that everything seemed better. And while he made no promises that he would stop, he did promise her that it had never entered her home, and that it wouldn’t. He told her that he wasn’t addicted to it, and made the point that everyone else he knew smoked pot too.

“He doesn’t seem to think this is a problem, and has basically let me know that he doesn’t plan on quitting no matter what I say. And that’s the issue. I don’t even know what to say.”

What do you say? Marijuana, while illegal, is fairly mainstream. It’s an easy drug to acquire, and while the feelings it produces and the way it helps them forget their stress momentarily make it a desirable drug to continue doing, the substance itself isn’t addictive. And yet, marijuana has downsides that teens aren’t concerned with. It loosens inhibitions and can cause a teen to make decisions they wouldn’t normally make if they were sober. It can affect a user’s memory and learning skills. It can affect their reflexes and perception, including their ability to drive a car. And it affects a teen’s energy levels and cares about how they look, activities they do, and basic enthusiasm for life itself. And of course there are the longer term downsides such as cancer and lung problems.

These downsides are the very reason many parents are concerned. That, and the fact that while it’s just marijuana today, tomorrow it might be a harder drug like cocaine or acid.

Sara felt that if she came down hard on him, he would just do it anyways, and would also cut off any open communication that still existed between the two of them. And if she came off too light, she felt that she would be condoning this behavior. Not only that, Sara’s son knew that she had smoked it herself as a teen and had turned out just fine, softening any argument that she might have against the drug. It made her question if she even had an argument to offer at all. When she had researched ways to handle this, the answers were all over the map. Some specialists said that a firm stance needed to be planted – that all of the teen’s friends’ parents needed to be called, that punishment needed to be enforced, that time spent with pot using friends needed to be quashed while time spent with sober friends needed to be rewarded, and so on. Other experts said that honesty should be commended, that questions about how or why they do it should be asked, and ensuring that they know how much is too much. And more liberal sites plainly stated that teen pot use wasn’t a problem at all.

Is marijuana a problem? How should a parent handle pot use when it comes to their own teen?

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14 thoughts on “Passing the Cannabis Cup”

  1. If you’re worried about your kids smoking pot and getting lost in the narcotics culture, think about how difficult it will be to tell children that dope is wrong when marijuana has been legalized.

  2. you are lucky your kids are not in a gang, are not causing havoc and getting in trouble with the police.

    its not the gateway drug people think opens up to everything else, cannabis is called weed for a reason, because it grows wild uncontrollably like a weed. hence the name, other drugs are “manufactured”

  3. If I demonize marijuana I risk looking like a hypocrite, as I occasionally indulge. I’d prefer my daughter to view it as similar to alcohol in that it’s enjoyed responsibly and in moderation. Lumping marijuana in with meth, cocaine, heroin etc. doesn’t seem appropriate.

  4. Around the end of high school through my early to mid 20s I experimented a bit with smoking pot. My parents were very open about drugs and alcohol and always willing to answer my questions, for which I was glad…my mom told me that one of the big problems her generation had regarding drugs was that marijuana WAS demonized (‘reefer madness’ era) and once young people figured out that smoking it wouldn’t make them have orgies and commune with satan unless they were already planning on doing so, they figured that all the stuff they had been told about other drugs were wrong too and many naively began using harder and much more dangerous substances.

    In my opinion, this is one of those situations in which the best thing a mom can do (ESPECIALLY since she has first-hand knowledge) is be honest. Pot is not all that likely to get you into smoking crack. Also, I’ve heard this whole ‘lowers your inhibitions’ thing and I have to say that, in my experience, it made me LESS likely to do risky stuff because of a) the fact that I generally felt like just sitting around and watching tv or listening to music or whatever, and b) the fact that being high DOES make you more paranoid and a bit freaked about engaging in activities that could lead to badness. Neither of these are always the case every time, but overall, I don’t feel that those are big pot-related risks.

    However, operating a motor vehicle while impaired with ANYTHING, especially as an inexperienced teen, is a dangerous thing to do. Yeah, you might ‘just drive slower’ but your reactions and cognition are still off.

    And smoking ANYTHING risks lung cancer.

    And kind of the number one big pot problem…you just want to lay around and listen to music and eat yummy food.

    Now, it sounds like this young man is keeping up with his responsibilities in his school and home life fairly well, and is pretty determined to keep up with his habit. However, he’s probably wrong in suggesting that there is nothing that his mom can do about it even if she wants to — but the measures she could take are probably on the extreme side and honestly not that necessary. If he’s being safe and keeping up with his responsibilities…as a number of people mentioned…well, there are worse things.

    I would suggest that as long as he is keeping up with his responsibilities and NEVER driving while intoxicated or riding with someone who is, she should see how things go. However, if he starts slipping into slacker territory and/or using more serious substances, then it might be time for sterner measures.

    Just my opinion, coming from the environment in which I was raised, of course…I know that everyone has their own parenting rules and sensibilities and I can’t countermand that. But as long as he is keeping up with school and home work and staying safe, I don’t see a huge problem.

  5. I totally agree with str4y. My teenage daughter was doing well as a junior and I made the mistake of coming down very strict when I found out she was smoking pot with friends. Her grades were fine but the disapproval from myself and some of her more “preppy” friends caused her downward spiral, eventually leading her to drop-out and leave her family. — Today, she is doing fine as a new mother, so I think my actions were unnecessary. I suspect a more intuitive approach would have worked better. Good luck ~

  6. bigE is wrong – pot is manufactured and highly profitable. Kids who get involved with growing may be entering into violent, criminal culture (depending on the extent of the grow, profit motive, etc.). It is good to not be in gangs, wanted by police, etc. – I agree with that. When people are motivated by money, they might start with marijuana, and move on to harder drugs – so there is a ‘gateway’ factor, more in dealing than in using.

    I generally agree with everyone here.

    Teens need information from their parents or other mentors, role models, peers, counselors, whom ever. If the teen never gets objective, honest information about any topic, they won’t be adequately equipped with the information needed to make informed decisions.

    There are consequences to smoking pot, and telling teens what those consequences could be will only help them.

    When I was a teen, if my parent(s) had come to me and expressed their genuine love and care for me and talked to me about possible reasons to not smoke pot, I might have made different choices.

  7. Let me ask, would you all feel the same if Junior was indulging in a couple of beers every evening while doing his homework? Sorry, but I don’t see where condoning his partaking is an okay thing. Sara’s son says the pot has never entered their home. Does that mean he has it hidden somewhere on the property or that he only smokes when he’s away from the house? And if he’s only doing it when he’s not at home, how does he get back home when he’s high?

    I’m just not in favor of any controlled substances being in the hands of minors, no matter how unrealistic an idea that is. And no, I don’t have an answer on what to do other than letting him know that you are not condoning his use, but also letting him know that you love him and will always be there for him.

  8. I agree with the “take it easy and see how it goes” approach. When I think about marijuana I think about the kinds of results that I have seen come of it. I try to consider fairly whether these results were actually caused by pot or are they more of a result from the personality of the person in question. “Is it the pot living their life, or is it just the way they are?” It might be a dramatic over generalization but I think most pot smokers fall close to one of three categories:

    #1 The pot rules my life – These folks are the ones that shouldn’t smoke pot. They just can’t balance things and keep life going. They are sucked into pot and they make it the number 1 priority. Incidentally I find that these folks tend to have an addictive personality and often don’t do well with other substances either.

    #2 The I’m just having fun – These folks make up the majority of pot smokers. Fluxing between balance and over doing it. Pot is relaxing and they enjoy it. They do it socially with friends and keep life balanced most of the time. Sometimes they might get caught up in it, but overall they keep life rolling.

    #3 The I just do it every once in awhile – These folks might admit to being pot smokers but really they have only tried it at a party or two. It has very little chance of ever affecting their life. As long as they remember not to drive or do anything that needs focus its likely you would never know they smoked pot unless you saw them do it.

    Does everyone fall into one of these? Nope. Can you easily tell which category your teen falls into and how best to talk to them? Nope. I think my important point is that really all of these scenarios are things that come as a phase. Maybe they will start out as a 3 and end up as a 1. Maybe they will be a 1 and then never try it again. Maybe they are somewhere in between. Personally I went all the way from a 3 to and 1 and now I don’t smoke at all. But it did relax me and I do see the benefits. But in the end the only way you can help is by having a reasonable conversation with your kids. I always felt our parents tended to talk at us, but didn’t practice good listening skills. So really truly hear your kids and I am sure you can help make a positive influence in your childrens life. Regardless of whether they smoke pot.

  9. As a school employee at a junior high, I can pinpoint when a student starts smoking by their attitude change, behavior and attendance. The brain of a child needs time to develop and smoking marijuana gets in the way of that. It is terrible that there are parents allowing this to happen and feeling this is ok. Some of the statements above show how the world is changing and will result in a generation that does not understand rules or boundaries. I see this every day with students disregard for respecting adults.

  10. Seriously? Are you all kidding me? I can not believe what I am reading here!! (except 2 of you) Why on earth would you condone or say its not that big of a deal when your kids using drugs??!?! Its ILLEGAL!! Would you condone them shoplifting?!? driving drunk!?? beating someone up?? doing graffiti? or ANYTHING else illegal?!?

    Don’t you want your children growing up to be healthy, happy, contributing members of society??? You all honestly looked at your newborn babies back then and thought….eh if they do pot when they grow up its no big deal!?!? Thats the kind of life you wanted for them?? REALLY?!?! How sad I am for you and your children. You should be expecting better of yourselves AND from your children!!

  11. If I find out my 14 year old is smoking pot, I’m going to ground her for the rest of her life. Why? Not because I think it’s a horrible drug that leads to harder drugs (I don’t) and not because it’s illegal (I don’t think it should be), but because SHE’S 14. ONE-FOUR. She can’t even drive a car yet. She can’t enter into contract, sign up for a gym membership, see an R rated movie, join the military, vote or buy alcohol. She can’t do those things because 14 year old brains aren’t capable of predicting the full extent of the consequences of their actions. All 14 year olds, even the smartest ones, are still teenagers who think they know everything but really know very little. If she were 21, I’d feel differently (I still wouldn’t be thrilled, but I wouldn’t have a such fit). No 14 year old should be using any recreational drugs or alcohol.

  12. Honestly, that’s a totally valid point. I agree that at that age, no one should be doing anything mind altering — I mean, if nothing else, all those puberty-related chemicals up in their noggins have them messed up enough already…they don’t need anything else.

    I think I was just saying, as this kid basically told his mom that he was going to smoke the reefer and didn’t care what she did, it seemed like pretty drastic measures were in order if he was going to comply with her wishes, and considering his continuing good efforts in school and extracurricular and her own personal feelings on the matter, she might want to avoid a highly volatile situation. And that really does make me sound like a bit of a pansy, but…*sigh*…I don’t know, I had friends who smoked a bit around that age, and they thought it was fun for a while, then they grew out of it. Sure, their brains didn’t need the extra complication at that age, but they kept up with school, they didn’t get hooked on heroine and once they got tired of it, they came out the other side no worse for the wear.

    But yes, I absolutely agree that 14 is way too young for pot smoking. To paraphrase a popular tv show, there’s a time and a place for that kind of thing…it’s called college.

  13. Over thirty years ago the definition of “addiction” only included physical withdrawal symptoms, like you might get from heroin, alcohol, or cocaine addiction. Therefore, marijuana was not classified as an addictive drug because there were not observable physical withdrawal symptoms. As people began to realize that addiction does not necessarily include physical withdrawals, the definition changed and marijuana is widely recognized as an addictive substance – as almost all drugs that change the mind have the potential to be. But the problem is that people are still passing around the old information that it is not addictive. And it’s somewhat believable since the addictive behaviors of people addicted to marijuana are not quite the same as the addictive behaviors of someone addicted to the substances that involve physical withdrawal symptoms, such as cocaine.

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