My teen and I live near the border of a state with legal recreational marijuana use. How do I
explain the inconsistent messages sent to teens separated by a border and a law?
— A Flustered Father
Many parents are starting to reevaluate how they talk to their kids about marijuana, especially those who live in or adjacent to states where it's legal. I know that it might seem daunting at first, but trust me when I say that you can do this! And, dare I say, as cannabis becomes legal both medicinally and recreationally, it actually becomes even easier to talk to your kids about it!
It can certainly be tempting for teens to want to experiment and try out marijuana. We've all been there, right? And, I can only imagine how much more tempting it is when you live very close to a state where it's legal. So, when it comes to teens, talking about the realities and legalities of the situation is a key place to start. I think it's totally okay to share your own feelings on this issue in order to have a frank discussion with your teen. It can be frustrating that marijuana use is being decided on a state by state basis, meaning that while it can be completely illegal in your state, only 5 minutes down the road, across state lines they're able to access and enjoy cannabis with no worries.
This can also become a chance to remind your teen that regardless of our feelings, we still need to be aware of and respect the law of the land until it changes. Remind your teen that regardless of what other states are doing, marijuana is still not legal in your state.
If you're not aware of the legal repercussions, this could be a good opportunity for you and your teen to do a little research together. Look up to see what the penalties are for possession of marijuana in your state so it's very clear what the consequences are. You could also then use this time to review with your teen your own family rules about breaking the law (if you have any, which I'll just be honest and say I hope you do…).
There's also the issue that even in states where marijuana is legal for recreational use, there are still age limits that apply, just like alcohol. So even if your teen was to cross the state line in hopes of toking up, he or she would have to be 21 to both purchase and possess cannabis. In this case, whatever your family's stance on alcohol consumption is can also apply to marijuana use.
If you're a parent who uses cannabis, this is also the perfect chance to lead by example. Children and even teens look to us as examples (even when we think they're not listening to a word we say!). If they're able to see you model responsible marijuana use, they will be more apt to grow into a person who will also be responsible when it comes to smoking, if they decide to go there. But for now, continue to remind them of the law and the very real consequences that come along with it, and keep those lines of communication open.