How Parents Can Talk About Cannabis With Their Kids

byErik McLaren3 minutes

For many parents, cannabis can be a tricky issue—but it doesn’t have to be. Even parents who favour legalization might feel upset if they found their own teenager smoking a joint. So, how are parents navigating the ever-changing cannabis landscape with their kids?

Medical Marijuana Has Pushed Some Parents to Accept Cannabis

While the cannabis community is larger than it’s ever been before, that doesn’t matter to many parents with almost no exposure to it. Ignorance almost always breeds fear, so many parents fall into this category by default.

However, thanks to relatively early acceptance of medical marijuana across Canada and in places like California, some people have changed their tune. When faced with a health condition or illness, many parents have had the devastating experience of trying literally every kind of pharmaceutical medicine for themselves or their children. And when nothing worked, they turned to medicinal cannabis.

In most cases, they found that marijuana actually works, making their view of cannabis do a complete 180. Occasionally, this can turn parents into marijuana advocates.

Even for people who’ve been lucky enough to avoid needing medical marijuana, the stories of cannabis helping people are too frequent and powerful to ignore. This was the case for Donna Purdon, a mother just outside of Toronto. “I remember reading about medical marijuana, and I thought it was just a big crock,” she says. But eventually, stories in the news and anecdotes from friends and family shifted her view.

“A few years go by, and it just seems like everybody’s getting help [from cannabis],” she says.

Communication Is Key When it Comes to Cannabis

Even though medical marijuana softened Donna’s stance on cannabis, she was still furious when her teenage son came home one night reeking of marijuana. “I hit the ceiling,” she says. This first interaction involving cannabis caused a long period of strife between her and her son—but it didn’t have to go that way.

Patricia Scott-Jeoffroy is an education consultant with Parent Action on Drugs, an organization that provides resources about drugs, alcohol and other issues to young people. Patricia says, when it comes to cannabis, the key for parents and children is communication.

Ultimately, how a family with children approaches recreational cannabis use should be “like any other substance,” says Patricia. “It’s an opportunity to help build some bridges of communication between families.”

This was the case for Donna and her family. After a few months of animosity between Donna and her son, they eventually sat down and talked about cannabis. “It was a whole new experience for me,” Donna says.

Talking openly about cannabis led Donna down a rabbit hole of researching and discovering things about the plant. And once she learned more, she wasn’t as mad at her son. “I still didn’t want him doing it, but I wasn’t scared anymore,” she says.

More Families Are Talking About Cannabis Than Ever Before

As people become more educated on cannabis, we’re less likely to see parents flipping out on their teens for consuming it. But that doesn’t mean a conversation needs to wait until after a child chooses to try marijuana.

There are a slew of children’s books about marijuana. While some are novelties, others genuinely try to normalize cannabis in a safe and friendly way.

If reading a children’s book about cannabis with your kid just doesn’t seem like the right approach, there are other ways to broach the subject—thanks to the upcoming adult-use cannabis legalization. Recreational marijuana legalization in Canada has dominated the news since Justin Trudeau was elected prime minister in 2015. As it approaches, it’s a good time for parents to bring up the topic, and there are plenty of opportunities to do so.

“Historically, there has not been such a push for families to discuss it, but as the legislation [on adult-use cannabis] goes through, it’s definitely an opportunity for families,” says Patricia.


While marijuana legalization is a great place to start, how that conversation should go is a more difficult question for some parents. “There’s as much difference and nuances in each conversation as people having the conversations,” Patricia says.

While cannabis is for the most part safe, there’s some evidence that prolonged use at a young age may have negative consequences such as increased risk of psychosis. Patricia says that almost all parents just want to help the young person in their lives and give them knowledge that can equip them to make wise decisions.

“I think it’s like any other substance that’s used for recreational purposes,” says Patricia. “It’s very helpful if parents and their children discuss the benefits and risks.”

Photo credit: Zachary Nelson