Legalization of cannabis worries this parent
Starting Oct. 17, recreational marijuana will be legal across the country. While some are buzzed about the idea, many parents, myself included, find ourselves more than a little concerned.
I worry about the impact it will have on my children, those around us and society in general.
As adults well know, just because something is legal does not mean that it’s good for you. Alcohol and tobacco are already legal to purchase and consume once you’re of age, but they are harmful substances.
And for that matter, just because a substance is illegal does not mean people will refrain from consuming it. Weed has been around for ages.
But legalizing something that people are already doing does bring it out of the shadows. I cannot help but wonder if this will translate into smelling smoke from weed while walking down the streets of downtown Montreal, my hometown, more than we currently do. And I imagine it will become more socially acceptable to say you’re stepping out for a joint, as you might say you’re stepping out for a drink or smoke. I’m concerned about what message that will send to youth.
Sure, recreational cannabis will remain prohibited for those below the legal age, but we all know youth will still be able to obtain it if they want to, and if anything, there will be more cannabis generally available.
As a parent, I need to be concerned about anything that can potentially be addictive, be it drugs, alcohol or video games. Addiction has the potential to ruin people’s lives, including by interfering with their success at school, and that is something that needs to be considered. I saw that firsthand this past summer when my 10-year-old son and his friends became outright obsessed with the latest rage, Fortnite. Nipping that in the bud was simple enough: confiscation of game controllers and the unplugging of a cord. I was indeed not the most popular person at that moment, but I did what needed to be done.
It is essential to have these conversations with our kids at home and not merely leave it to them to learn about cannabis in the halls of their high schools, CEGEPs or university.
In my conversation with my own kids, I will not only stress that consuming cannabis is against our beliefs and personal values, but also that even though it will be legal, legalization does not make this a safe or good idea. I do not remember explicitly ever being told this by my own immigrant parents growing up, it was just something we were expected to know. We might think our children already know this, given that children nowadays have access to so much more information at such a young age than we ever did, but they may not have received this message in a sufficiently explicit and frank way.
Clearly, there are positive aspects to the legalization of marijuana: I know it will bring some economic highs. I’m also hopeful that legalization will lead to a better controlled distribution network, allowing adults to access a more legitimate, clean source. Many regularly use marijuana both medicinally as well as recreationally. It has its benefits. Are they enough to outweigh the harm? That is something I am not entirely convinced of.
But in the words of Kevin O’Leary, “You either make it illegal, in which case you support a huge underground economy, or you tax it within the limits people can afford.” Pragmatically that might be the only way to handle it, but we still need to do more to avoid having it fall into the hands of our youth and others, and to discourage its use.