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Talking to your Children about Medical Cannabis

By Kim Hughes

There are many potentially fraught conversations parents and guardians may have with teens, but the use of cannabis for medical purposes needn’t be one of them. Indeed, as discussion surrounding cannabis use becomes more mainstream, resources such as clinical studies, and public health campaigns, are available to support a common sense approach that also takes into consideration the frame of reference and sophistication level of the teen in question.

If you are a medical user of cannabis hoping to talk comfortably and effectively with your teen about your usage, here are three simple tips that should help make the dialogue flow more smoothly.

1. Frame the subject medically

Unlike recreational cannabis use, which has been shaped by decades of pop culture commentary, medical use is comparatively novel while the list of potential therapeutic uses continues to grow. It’s essential your teen understand that you have found cannabis to be effective in treating your medical condition or alleviating your symptoms, which could range from neuropathic pain to epilepsy to glaucoma. Explain that your decision was made with a health care provider in the considered context of your overall health and wellness, and mirrors the diabetic using insulin or the asthma sufferer using an inhaler. What’s more, by putting the subject of cannabis use in a medical context, you are arming your teen with information they can use to combat prejudice or ignorance they may encounter from peers, teachers or others in their orbit.

2. Do a test-run beforehand

Like the Boy Scouts say: Be Prepared. Ask your spouse or a friend or relative to sit in as your teen while you practice what you hope to say and encourage them to ask questions to give you the opportunity to formulate answers. You don’t want to come off as scripted or worse, scattered and unprepared. Role-play will permit bumbles and hesitations to be worked through, and left-field queries to be contemplated. You might also encourage your teen to speak with a trusted, knowledgeable third party (maybe your practice partner?) if you think it might ease communication or offer substantive corroboration.

3. The conversation doesn’t have to happen all at once

Your teen might already be aware of your usage and has some immediate questions. If they are learning about it for the first time, however, they may need to digest and reflect on this information. Encouraging follow-up discussions allows your teen to explore the topic of medical usage. It also helps to take the stress off you, giving you time to unpack facts about usage in various contexts. As Canadian registered charity Drug Free Kids Canada emphasizes on its website, talking with your child about drugs (and alcohol) is not a one-time event but an ongoing process.

Discussing your medical usage may also serve as a gateway to a broader discussion about recreational marijuana consumption and things your teen should consider before experimenting. These include the legal age of consumption (18 or 19 depending on the province or territory) as well as Health Canada’s note that “youth are especially vulnerable to the effects of cannabis, as research shows that the brain is not fully developed until around age 25. This is because THC, the substance which gives the 'high' in cannabis, affects the same machinery in the brain that directs brain development.”

As always, forewarned is forearmed.

Kim Hughes is a widely published entertainment/lifestyle writer and editor whose work has appeared on marquee websites and in print publications throughout North America. She lives in Toronto and is a proud volunteer with Annex Cat Rescue.

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