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Mom, Dad the Kids & Cannabis

The greening of the American family, without visits from Child Services (if you do it right).

I was at an otherwise typical dinner party with friends who also happened to be parents. And pot smokers. Our kids were in the basement playing, while the adults sat outside, digesting after a big meal and sipping cocktails. But then Ryan, the evening’s host and the father of two young girls, pulled out a pipe.

“Anyone care to join me?” he asked before lighting it.

The expressions on our collective faces perfectly encapsulated the modern parent’s feelings about cannabis use. “Um, I’d love to,” our eyes seemed to say. “But are we sure we should be doing this? I mean, I know it’s legal in this state and everything but…is this irresponsible? Are we being terrible parents? Our kids might see us, the neighbors might judge us, their teachers might find out. Wait, was that a knock at the door? Is that Child Protective Services?!

In many ways, parenting is the final frontier for cannabis acceptance. Even the most passionate weed advocate isn’t entirely sure he wants to see mom or dad passing a joint. As a culture, we’re still getting used to the idea that you can be a responsible parent and pot smoker.

But cannabis-loving parents are increasingly daring to be out and proud. In a survey by cannabis delivery startup Eaze, one in five users are parents and 63% of them admit to ingesting cannabis on a daily basis.

“It’s gone from ‘cannabis is bad’ to ‘cannabis is great in moderation.’ But now we can tell the truth to our kids. It’s
such a relief to come clean.”

“Cannabis isn’t the same for me now as it was in college,” says Jenn Lauder, a mother from Portland, Oregon who co-founded the pot and parenting website Splimm with her husband. “It doesn’t have to be about sucking on a bong all day and getting yourself into a stupor. There are actually ways to use it that can have a positive impact on how you parent.”

It’s also changing how parents interact with their kids about drugs. “I went through many years of ‘don’t smoke weed’ lecturing to my kids,” says Garo Keresteci, a dad of three and founding partner of FUSE, a Toronto-based advertising agency. “But that’s changed. It’s gone from ‘cannabis is bad’ to ‘cannabis is great in moderation.’ Which is something most long-time cannabis users already knew. But now we can tell the truth to our kids.”

Keresteci compares it to being honest, finally, with his children about Santa Claus. “We knew that we were telling them a fib, but we told it to them anyway,” he says. “It can be such a relief to finally come clean.”

At the aforementioned dinner party, I ended up taking a (small) hit from my friend Ryan’s pipe. Most of us did, even if we did so nervously. We all laughed a little harder, and when our kids came running over, we still managed to be attentive and engaged. Our parenting house of cards didn’t come crashing down after just one toke.

Are you ready for parenthood in an era of legal cannabis? The truth is: None of us are. That’s why I talked to the experts, found the most revealing studies, and assembled everything we pot-infused parents need to make our first tentative steps into this unpredictable new world.

By The Numbers

  • A survey of parents (500 users, 500 non-users), 74% would rather their kids use recreational cannabis than alcohol.
  • Parents are 52% more likely to replace booze with cannabis than non-parents.
  • 41% of divorced dads use cannabis every day.
  • 47% of parents talk about weed with their kids.

(Sources: ProjectKnow, Eaze, University of Montreal, Green Market Report, and Brightfield Group)

Related: Talking to Teens About Weed

The New Rules

Even if you never saw them do it, your parents probably smoked cannabis: 55% of boomers have tried it in their lifetimes, and 9% smoke it now. (Sorry if you’re just learning about this now.) But times have changed. Weed is (mostly) legal, and today’s moms and dads don’t need to be quite so secretive about their recreational and medicinal marijuana usage. Here are the new ground rules for parents who love their kids but also want to partake in cannabis without feeling all weird about it.

1. Roll your own way

Tiffany, age 29, has two toddler boys—she lives in a state where cannabis isn’t yet legal, so she declined to reveal her city or last name—and she and her husband only use cannabis in the evenings, after the kids are asleep, to “take the edge off” before bed. They never, ever do it in front of their boys and keep it a guarded secret from their family and friends. “This is something we don’t take lightly,” she says.

Lauder, the Portland mom, isn’t opposed to drinking a cannabis-infused beverage in front of her daughter. “I just make sure she knows this is a beverage for grown-ups, in the same way that beer and wine are for grown-ups,” she says. Lauder knows her limits, and never consumes more than she can handle. “Parenting is always the priority,” she says. 

Ask a different parent, and you’re likely to get a different opinion on when (or if) to use cannabis around children. There are so many factors, and most of them are justifiable, given a person’s specific set of circumstances. Our point is, don’t look for definitive answers. There is no absolute correct way to use (or not use) cannabis as a parent, just like there’s no absolute correct way to parent. 

2. Second-Hand Smoke Is Never Okay For Young Lungs

A 2016 study from the University of California, San Francisco, found that arteries took three times as long to recover from second-hand marijuana smoke as it did from tobacco. 

Matthew Springer, who ran the study, says he’s reluctant to say that second-hand smoke from marijuana is more dangerous than tobacco, “but our results indicate that at least with respect to blood vessel function, marijuana is potentially more harmful.”

Even parents who think they can parent responsibly under the influence should stay away from smoking, especially in any shared spaces with young and developing lungs. “Smoking has to happen in a different space,” says Lauder, “when the child is not around or outside.”

3. Go Small

“I’m all about microdosing,” says Keresteci. “I wish I’d discovered microdosing when my kids were younger.” When he and his wife were new parents, “we finished every joint we started,” he says. “But that’s not the way to do it.”

Many edibles are available in dosages with as little as one to five milligrams of THC, which is enough to put a smile on your face but still keep you alert.
Jessie Gill, mom of two and a New Jersey resident who writes under the name “Marijuana Mommy,” says most parents using cannabis recreationally are only consuming small doses and getting “mildly lifted. It’s really about knowing your dose and responsibly monitoring your consumption.”

The bottom line: If you’re a parent, you shouldn’t be getting intoxicated around your kid. That’s true regardless of the substance. 

“I’m never drunk in front of my child because I know that I’m not capable of being the parent that she might need in that condition,” says Lauder. “But there are many ways of using cannabis that don’t intoxicate you, let alone negatively impact your ability to parent.”
Microdosing gives you all the wellness benefits of cannabis without any of the drawbacks.

“Microdosing gives me tremendous focus,” says Lauder. “I’m alert and motivated to do whatever I need to be doing.”

Or as Rebecca Eckler, a mother and author of the “Mom 4/20” column for Canada’s National Post puts it: “The micro-buzz de-stresses me, but I can still make dinner.”

Related: MJ Myth or Weed Wisdom?

Child-Proofing Your Hemp House

A joint is one thing, but a toddler or kid of any age is going look at cannabis disguised as gummies, cookies, or chocolate and think it’s a delicious treat. With more states going legal, it’s led to more kids going to emergency rooms after ingesting cannabis. In Colorado alone, according to 2018 study from the University of Colorado, the rates of accidental marijuana exposure among young children jumped by 150% in the two years after legalization, in 2014.

Your dad may have been able to hide his weed in a desk drawer, but today’s parent has to be stealthier. Here are five ways to secure your stash.

Illustration by Claire McCracken

SPAM tin decoy $8.50,  

Unless you live with kids who might rifle through kitchen drawers looking for pre-cooked canned pork, this is about as safe a hiding spot for cannabis as any parent could ask for.

Rob Rodney Bag $99,  

Created by an actual dad, Mark Frahm, this stylish leather bag offers dependable protection against prying little fingers with a fashion sense evoking James Bond. It’s fully customizable with two magnetic interior bags, each equipped with airtight bamboo-lid jars that trap in tell-tale odors, and a combination lock to further discourage miniature Houdinis who want to mess with your stash.

Canvas medical case

If it’s sturdy enough to hold medical supplies, it’s safe storage for your edibles, pre-rolls, and vape pens. Each bag is lockable and both fire and rip-resistant. Best of all, it wouldn’t look out-of-place or suspicious if it happened to fall out of a diaper bag. Not that you’d carry weed in a diaper bag but, hey… you be you. We’re not judging.

The Cannador

It’s a humidor but for your cannabis, get it? This handsome lockbox is actually worth the steep price tag. The inner container is surrounded by several layers of wood (cherry or walnut) and a lid that’s either ventilated with a humidifier or airtight silicone with no humidifier. It includes four glass cups that each hold around half an ounce of flower, and a security system that includes two keys and a combination lock. 

The Mediator

Not only is this cannabis container childproof, but it’s also airtight, water-resistant, and conveniently portable. It comes in a variety of colors—the bright, primary colors of an episode of Sponge Bob Square Pants—and built from environmentally-safe, FDA-medical-grade plastic. Oh, and it comes with a built-in grinder at the bottom, so it’s like having a traveling weed kitchen.