What your teen needs to know about weed

Published Feb 9, 2020 10:00 a.m. ET
iStock / fizkes

Pot shops are pretty much everywhere these days, which means that parents have an entirely new world to traverse. Even if you don’t live in a legal region, the movement is spreading and chances are pretty good that you will see this shift soon, especially if you reside in the United States, where over half of the states already have their own version of legalization.

Cannabis acceptance as a recreational substance is so new that our current school curriculum's hardly brush on the topic, leaving parents and caregivers to find their own way around this still taboo conversation. It’s a heavy burden to bear, the responsibility of raising and molding future generations to live in a world very different than the one that we grew up in, but it’s one that we must take in stride.

Now, we have discussed how to talk to younger children about the basics of cannabis, but teenagers are a whole different ball game. These instinct-driven humans need to be given direction on how to proceed in a reality where they are highly likely to come across cannabis or derived goods like concentrates, vape pens, or edibles. It is important to stay open and honest to keep the conversation going, but often, it’s trying to start one that’s the most challenging.

Where to start

Since our teenagers can very clearly remember a time where toking was considered to be a criminal offense, it is important to build a level of trust and comfort when broaching this topic. That is particularly true if you already feel nervous about the idea, thanks to decades of exposure to propaganda, as your kids are very likely to pick up on your feelings.

The best way to begin an informational discussion about cannabis is to ask what they already know. This can give you time to reflect on how much you would like to share, and an insight into things that you probably didn’t even realize they knew. Kids talk and pay attention when we least expect it, and it’s quite common for teenagers to at some point or another, be exposed to someone who enjoys weed, so you might be surprised to find out how much you won’t have to talk about.

An excellent second goal should be to disprove any of the wrong information that they share. Most adult cannabis consumers still believe in some harmful myths, so you’ll never know, you might even learn a thing or two on this educational journey. Since every teen is going to start at a different point, it is difficult to say exactly where to go from these two first steps, but to help, we have included some useful tips and tricks down below.

Tips and tricks

The conversation about cannabis with your teens should never end here, but these five helpful points can help to give you the inspiration to create topics that are engaging and relevant to their level of knowledge.

1. It’s not toxic, but it can interfere with brain development

This should be one of the very first lessons that you pass along to your teenagers, as it is important to know the truth about weed. It most definitely isn’t a good idea to experiment with it until your brain is fully developed, but there is no reason that they should fear the results of getting high. You don’t want them sparking up first thing tomorrow, but you also don’t want to scare them away from what is typically viewed as a much safer alternative to alcohol.

2. Safe sources


Discussing safe sources is incredibly beneficial especially at a time where drugs like kratom are commonly found in street purchased cannabis. Obviously, your best friend or trusted black market source probably isn’t running around lacing their weed, but the quality of the cannabis found in high schools is questionable at best and can be a hazard to the health of anyone who uses it. It is good for your teenager to know that if they do choose to consume cannabis, they should be wary of where it comes from.

3. Bad experiences

Even if your teen isn’t of a legal age to consume cannabis, chances are pretty good that they will at some point be present when others are using it. One of the best gifts you can give them is the tools to handle a situation where someone is experiencing adverse effects from getting high. Let them know that they can come to you anytime and explain all of the possibilities when it comes to the less enjoyable sensations that can come from cannabis.

4. Medicinal use

Everybody talks about the recreational side of cannabis, but few truly understand how useful it can be as a tool to either replace or complement treatments for a variety of medical conditions. Though weed is most definitely a substance that can get you high, it can also provide relief from pain, nausea, and a host of other common ailments that are challenging to control with traditional pharmaceutical options. This insight should inspire a respect for the marijuana plant, and an openness to learn more as we discover new things about it.

5. Recreational substances

This is an excellent time to discuss all the different substance out there, including both legal and non-legal elements. Knowledge is power, and the more your teen knows, the more they will be able to avoid the majority of any potentially dangerous situations. Some parents prefer to stick to nature-based drugs, while others like to venture out and highlight the darker side of some of the deadliest substances. The choice is entirely yours, but this makes for an excellent comparison tool and allows you to really open up about more than just weed.


We were all teenagers once, which is why we know that it isn’t always easy to talk to your parents about these kinds of things, and that is why it is important to show them other factual resource options. Whether they have a simple question that they are too embarrassed to ask, or they end up in a scary situation where a friend ingests too much and they panic, the Kids Help Phone can help, anytime and anywhere in the world. So, don’t wait. It’s time to give your children the tools that we were never given so that they can do better in their choices surrounding cannabis.

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