Are you a parent considering taking medical or recreational cannabis? You aren’t alone.
With Canada’s trailblazing medical and recreational cannabis laws, it’s no surprise that cannabis use is on the rise. With more active Canadian cannabis consumers than ever before, it makes sense that some of these folks are parents. More and more, parents are opting to set aside dangerous prescriptions like opioids, as well as other substances with their own downsides like alcohol and cigarettes, in favour of cannabis.
While it’s not entirely clear what percentage of Canadian parents also take marijuana, studies from the U.S. have shown a surprisingly high number of parents among cannabis consumers. One study found that of Americans who’ve tried cannabis, 65% are parents.
Taking cannabis as a mom or dad can be incredibly helpful. Many parents praise the plant’s ability to assist with their medical needs without impeding their ability to function and care for their children. Still, it’s not without its risks, so it’s important for parents to understand basic marijuana safety information and to consume with care.
Reasons Parents Consume Marijuana
There are so many unique reasons why parents decide to consume cannabis, but most reasons fit into the following three categories:
1. Taking Cannabis for Medical Treatment
Medical treatment is a common reason for consuming cannabis as a parent. Research shows that cannabis can be an effective and safe treatment for many conditions including:
- Chronic pain
Because cannabis is much safer than many of the alternative treatments available, some find it to be the best option for them. For parents who took cannabis medically before having children, it makes sense to continue on using this helpful and safer alternative. Even for those parents who never took cannabis in the past, when presented with the available options, cannabis is sometimes the best treatment option for their medical needs.
2. Enhancing Relaxation & Enjoyment With Cannabis
Others may not have a specific medical issue, but instead are using marijuana to enhance relaxation and enjoyment, in much the same way that some parents enjoy a glass or two of wine or a cold beer at the end of a long day. Cannabis is well suited to this task, as it’s shown to reduce anxiety and boost mood.
Still, while most wouldn’t think twice about a parent drinking a beer in front of their child, cultural norms leave many thinking that cannabis-consuming parents are doing something much more dangerous.
But when compared to alcohol, cannabis is the safer substance. In one study comparing health risks for substances like alcohol, tobacco, cocaine, heroin and cannabis, only alcohol fell into the high-risk category for all methods of evaluating risk in the study. Cannabis, on the other hand, fell into the low-risk category in each method of evaluation, ranking far below all of the other substances. Researchers estimated that cannabis is 114 times better for your health than alcohol is.
However, both substances are ones to be cautious with around children. Both can lead to unsafe circumstances, because you can feel confused or disoriented if you overconsume. But when consumed in moderation by those who understand their tolerance levels, neither seems to be problematic.
Parents who choose to relax with cannabis over alcohol are picking an option that’s safer for their own health, and is safer should a child accidentally ingest some. While no one (including children) has died from an overdose of cannabis, alcohol can easily lead to death with just one accidental overdose. When it comes to parental relaxation and fun, why not swap out alcohol for a safer choice?
3. Becoming More Open & Available Through Marijuana
A final reason that some parents take cannabis is because it makes them more open and available to their children. Parenting can be stressful. Sometimes, it’s hard for parents to keep everything running smoothly and connect with their children on an emotional level.
Many parents have shared that consuming cannabis helps them slow down and really be present with their children. Because cannabis dampens stress responses, it can sometimes allow parents to have stressful interactions while maintaining a sense of compassion and love. It can also evoke a sense of playfulness or silliness, which may help parents connect more with their children. In other words, cannabis may make you want to join in at playtime, instead of just watching from a distance.
Safety Tips for Cannabis-Consuming Parents
While there are some great reasons for taking cannabis as a parent, the practice isn’t without its risks. So, it’s important to understand the potential pitfalls, and how to consume and store your cannabis safely.
- Learn your cannabis limits: Before you ever start taking cannabis around your kids, it’s important to learn how you react to it. People can have vastly different reactions to cannabis, from feeling totally normal to being extremely confused and disoriented. Different types of cannabis have different effects, so it’s important to find a consistent product you can rely on. Experiment with marijuana when you aren’t on mommy or daddy duty, or when another adult can look after your kids for you.
Cannabidiol (CBD) products are a great place to start, because they help with a lot of medical needs, but won’t get you high. Cannabis rich in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are more likely to make someone feel high, but not everyone responds in this way. So, it’s a very personal process to find the right type of cannabis for you.
Find a marijuana consumption method, variety and dose that works well for you and keeps you functional. Once you know your limits, be sure never to go beyond them when you’re with your kids. What’s most important is that they always have functional adults around them who can respond to a crisis and be present with them.
- ** Keep cannabis smoke away from kids:** If you smoke or vape cannabis, it’s important to keep your kids away from that smoke or vape. It’s possible for children to feel cannabis’s effects from inhaling secondhand smoke or vapour. Even if they don’t feel any effects, the plant’s cannabinoids can still reach their bloodstream from secondhand smoke. And we don’t yet understand fully how this may affect them in the long term. Play it safe. Use cannabis only in spaces that don’t share any air with your children or switch to non-inhaled methods like edibles or sublingual oils.
- Lock up your marijuana: How you store your cannabis is also a crucial piece to this puzzle. Treat your cannabis like you’d treat your prescription drugs or anything else not considered safe for children. Make sure it’s labeled and kept in a place that children and pets can’t access. Ideally, your cannabis should be in a locked box that only you have access to.
- Be aware of laws and social perceptions: One of the biggest fears for cannabis-consuming parents is that their children will be taken away from them. While cannabis laws are updating quickly, those that remove children from a cannabis-consuming home haven’t caught up as quickly. Some parents have lost custody of their children because their cannabis consumption was used as a reason to show that they weren’t a fit parent.
Still, in Canada, the policy is to look at the type of marijuana use and whether it’s problematic. Lisa Tomlinson, director of intake for the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto explains, “If somebody is using all day long and unable to get up, not getting kids to school—that’s different than if someone uses recreationally.” The latter, she says, “is not something we’re going to get involved with.”
Still, as a cannabis-consuming parent, it’s important to make sure you’re on your best behaviour. Always keep the highest standards when it comes to storing your cannabis safely and using it responsibly.
Photo credit: Rhone