Recreational cannabis is now legal in Missouri. Here’s how to talk to your kids about it

January 2, 2023 7:00 am

Fifth-three percent of Missouri voters signed off on a constitutional amendment legalizing recreational marijuana on Nov. 8, 2022 (Carol Yepes/Getty Images).

With the passing of Amendment 3 in November, parents in Missouri now have a new conversation to navigate: Adult cannabis (marijuana) use.

As someone who works in alcohol and drug education, I’ve seen firsthand the impacts of substance use disorder in our communities, particularly on young people.

Talking about drugs and alcohol with your kids is never fun, but it’s truly one of the most important conversations you can have. As we head toward a new reality in Missouri — one where adult-use recreational cannabis will become part of our community’s fabric — it’s time for you to develop your family’s narrative on cannabis.

I hope to prepare families for what’s to come: Lots of flashy advertisements about cannabis scattered around the city, endless news stories, the development of dispensaries in our neighborhoods and more and more young people attempting to access cannabis.

Parents: It’s up to you to equip your child with the knowledge they need to make informed, healthy decisions and stay safe. Having these conversations early and often will pave the way to helping your child understand the dangers and risks of cannabis use.

  • Talking about cannabis doesn’t mean your child will use it. Many parents I know are worried that having the conversation will cause their child to become more curious about cannabis — and want to try it. However, pretending that cannabis doesn’t exist will only create secrets. Open, honest conversations about cannabis will give them the tools and knowledge to make informed, confident decisions. In fact, research suggests that having conversations with your kids about the risks of drugs and alcohol actually cuts their chance of future misuse in half.
  • Be honest and approachable. Talk to your child or teen about the new legalization laws and what the future holds for Missouri. You don’t need to hold a serious formal family meeting to discuss cannabis — you can simply share details on recreational cannabis use and potential risks as it comes up in your daily routines. Maybe it’s a TV show where a character is smoking a blunt or a song that alludes to being high. Use these moments as an opportunity to start the conversation with your child in an organic way, encouraging them to share what they know and answer any questions they may have.
  • Share information on the dangers of recreational cannabis. Depending on your child’s age, you can share further details on why cannabis poses plenty of risks to young adults. Provide information on the development and maturity of the brain and perhaps share a few details on how cannabis negatively impacts teens, like problems with memory and learning, difficulty paying attention, and challenges at school.
  • Make an exit plan together. With the legalization of recreational marijuana in Missouri, more youth in our communities will find opportunities to access weed, and it will likely become more prevalent at high school parties and social gatherings. Talk with your teen about an exit plan in the event that they’re offered marijuana. Preparing them for this scenario is a great way to establish clear boundaries and set rules on your own expectations for their behavior.
  • Remind your child that just because recreational cannabis is legal doesn’t mean it’s safe. Studies are showing that many teens underestimate the risks associated with cannabis use. Talk with your child about the inherent risks of marijuana use in young people and be clear that using cannabis as a child or teen can permanently alter the brain.
  • Discuss cannabis advertising. As dispensaries in Missouri begin to open, we will begin to see a lot of advertising. When you come across billboards or advertisements about marijuana, use it as an opportunity to talk with your child about how marketing can impact a person’s opinion. One study found that the more cannabis ads that a teen sees, the more likely they are to take a positive view of cannabis and try it. Present your child with the facts and risks of cannabis use and encourage them to do their own research if they’re curious.

To help navigate these difficult conversations, visit Talk About It Missouri for age-specific talking kits on broaching the subject.

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Nichole Dawsey
Nichole Dawsey

Nichole Dawsey is the executive director of PreventEd, formerly known as the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.