My mom confessed to me when I was 15 that she and my dad occasionally smoked weed. By that age, I definitely had my suspicions (the bongo drums and sage burning kind of gave it away), and she’d already spoken with me about cannabis and other drugs a handful of times. I feel certain that her being open and honest with me about it shaped how I eventually handled my own journey with cannabis–in a good way!
When I was young, cannabis was never all that enticing because there was no mystery to it. It wasn’t taboo, and it wasn’t some secret I needed to go behind my parents’ backs to investigate. It was just something that smelled weird and made grownups annoyingly talkative and forgetful. Whenever I had questions about it (like anything else), I’d just ask, and I would get a straightforward answer.
I remember my mom telling me, “It’s relaxing,” which sounded pretty boring to teenage me who yearned for excitement that was severely lacking in our sleepy suburban neighborhood. As a result, I didn’t explore cannabis myself until I was away from home at college, at which point, it helped me cope with the anxiety and depression that I think many young adults struggle with when they first gain their independence.
Now that I have my own kids (still a bit young for this talk), I think about how I’ll eventually address my cannabis use with them, and thanks to mom, I feel confident that honesty is indeed the best policy. Still, there is a lot of nuance when it comes to talking about cannabis with anyone let alone a young person or child who may not be familiar with concepts like recreational vs. medicinal drug use, altered states of consciousness, or systemic racism.
Luckily, as public support for cannabis legalization has spread, resources to help parents confront these kinds of topics have begun to emerge. One such asset that I’ve come across is the children’s book It’s Just a Plant by Ricardo Cortés.
In It’s Just a Plant, Cortés writes and beautifully illustrates the educational adventure of Jackie, a young girl who meets several characters who each interact with cannabis (referred to as marijuana) in different ways. The story tackles adult recreational use, the history of cannabis cultivation, medicinal use, abstinence, and even touches on some of the injustices of cannabis prohibition.
In no way does It’s Just a Plant endorse cannabis use by children. The focus of each part of the story is to introduce kids to a unique and versatile plant that holds a very complicated position in our society and culture. It encourages open discussion about the risks and benefits of cannabis and chips away at the misconceptions created by decades of propaganda.
Having these conversations with our children can prevent them from experimenting too early and without guidance. So can responsibly securing any cannabis products in your home, but fostering a better understanding of its positive impacts, as well as the reasons to wait until adulthood to consume, is important for breaking down stigma and encouraging responsible use if and when people decide to give cannabis a try.
Many thanks to my MCR Labs colleagues who gifted “It’s Just a Plant” to me and my boys. Our journey toward understanding is off to a great start because of your thoughtfulness and kindness.