What is the truth about marijuana? As long as I’ve been an adult I’ve known people who smoke marijuana, and they certainly don’t fit the stereotype of skater dude or hippie holdover. Instead they have included the director of a medical charity, an investment banker, the mother of a severely disabled child, an athletic trainer, a salesman, a retiree, a small business owner, a chef and no small number of waiters, athletes and tech professionals.
All of these people, who live all over the country, broke the law when they got high, but are otherwise law-abiding citizens. They hold steady jobs. They pay taxes. Some are Republicans. Most are parents. And even if you don’t realize it, you know them, or someone just like them, too.
Seeing these folks use the drug occasionally while contributing positively to their families and society, shaped my belief that marijuana should be legal for adults and taxed and regulated in a manner similar to other intoxicants like tobacco and alcohol.
But over dinner earlier this year, a friend who I respect very much argued vehemently that using marijuana was a bad thing, could be a gateway drug to more serious substances and should remain illegal and off-limits. This wasn’t just a casual opinion: My friend is a clinical director in emergency psychiatry at one of the nation’s largest psychiatric emergency rooms, and has for more than a decade worked on the front lines where drug abuse intersects with crime and misfortune.
And yet, despite the negative effects of the drug for some, another psychiatrist who works with adults and adolescents in Brooklyn, told me that many of her patients expressed the wish that they could treat their anxiety with marijuana because it thoroughly relieves all their symptoms and has fewer side effects than the legal, prescription alternatives.
So what is the right thing to believe — and to teach my children — here? And does it matter that my friend who argued so vehemently against marijuana did so after ordering a second sidecar cocktail? And what if we live in a state where marijuana is illegal, but have family members who live where recreational use is approved?
In Education Life, I explored how parents are grappling with these issues and took a close-up look at five different parenting approaches. Across the country, parents have wildly divergent ideas about what to teach their children, with some insisting they “Just Say No” and others offering to roll joints and make nachos. And as hard is it is to teach children about alcohol, despite uniform laws across the country, parents have an even tougher time with marijuana, given such disparate messages from different states, and from state and federal authorities.
But in the stories of these five families, we see that marijuana is but one issue among many that parents are concerned about, from binge drinking to sexual assault to prescription drug abuse, and that America’s drug landscape is far too complex today to rely on simplistic aphorisms. Being more casual or accepting of marijuana use is also a privilege of being white and middle-upper class: While illegal use of marijuana is rarely enforced among whites, blacks are routinely singled out for marijuana arrests, forcing black families to have entirely different conversations with their children.
Through my reporting and through personal experience, I came to see the truth about marijuana is that, like most things, there is no one truth. It can be good and it can be bad, and which depends on how and when it is used, how often, and by whom. In a family with a history of drug abuse, marijuana can be deadly. In a family with severe anxiety, it can be a lifesaver.
So what should you say to your children? That depends on you, your values, and, of course, your child.
Read more about marijuana on Motherlode: When the Stance on Marijuana Is Still ‘Just Say No;‘ When Marijuana Looks Like Candy, Not Drugs; What to Do When Your Child Wants Marijuana Stocks, and That Six-Serving Bar of Marijuana Chocolate? My Son Ate It.
By Julie Scelfo - The New York Times/Nov. 9, 2014
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A Family Affair of Drugs Gives Those Involved a New Perspective