Many parents in my practice are feeling the strain of the pandemic. For parents with some conditions such as cancer, this means that they are using, or wanting to use, medicinal marijuana that has been prescribed to them. These parents are asking my advice on the impact and advisability of using marijuana for medicinal purposes in front of their children.

I always let people know that I am skeptical about the benefits of medicinal marijuana. I have concerns that, despite having been available for medicinal purposes since 2001, there is still scant evidence as to its benefits except in limited circumstances. I usually also use this question as an opportunity to remind parents of my significant reservations about youth under 25 ever using marijuana for medicinal purposes, given its impact on the developing brain.

Having said this, here are some of the things that we discuss when parents want to have my advice about safely using marijuana for medicinal purposes when their children may be present.

I always start by stressing that, if marijuana is being used for medicinal purposes, then it should be treated as you would other medications. It should be stored safely in a place where children and teens cannot get access to the drug or to any instruments you might use to ingest it. Of course, a smoke-free environment is considered better, but edibles can be difficult to store, needing a safe pantry or fridge space.

I also suggest that, if marijuana is a medication, your children will be curious about the reasons you are using that medication. Explain what the medication is for and how often you take it. This is reassuring since children of all ages worry about their parents’ health.

Some of the indications for medicinal marijuana, such as palliative circumstances, are complex illnesses. As a parent, you need to be prepared to discuss these with your children. Be prepared for this even when you believe you have already done this.

I will always remember what I heard from one of the parents in my practice. Marijuana edibles provided relief from the excruciating pain caused by this woman’s end stage cancer. As she was explaining how the marijuana helped the pain, her son realized for the first time that his mother might die soon.

“You never told me!” He exclaimed.

Imagine how difficult that was for this woman, who had been certain that she had already had that conversation. While some might have wondered, I believed that she had discussed every aspect of her medical situation with her family. For her son, however, it was just sinking in.

This is the main thing to remember. Expect the conversation with your child about marijuana for medicinal purposes to take a few twists in the road.

(Photo credit: This was the poster for an exhibition Cannabis – A Visual Perspective – by the Rocky Mountain Society of Botanical Artists at the Boulder Museum.


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