Module 5: Talking With Your Children About Marijuana
TABLE OF CONTENTS
True or False
What is Marijuana?
The Effects of Marijuana
Marijuana and Alcohol
Marijuana and the Law
Marijuana and Driving
Marijuana In School
Starting the Conversation
Welcome to "Talking With Your Children About Marijuana," the fifth interactive module in our "Talk About Drugs” series. This series was developed by Peel Public Health to help you as parents talk to your children about drugs. My name is Clair and I’ll be your guide for this module. We will look at facts and Canadian laws about the drug marijuana, as well as how to start talking about marijuana with your children.
As parents, our relationship with our children is one of the main influences on whether or not they will choose to use drugs. But we also know many other people have an influence over our children. These modules are meant for anyone that cares for and nurtures a child, including parents, caregivers, grandparents, older siblings and others.
It's time to introduce some of the people who will be sharing their insights and experience related to talking about drugs: Barry, his daughter Kim; Eve and her son Ryan.
TRUE OR FALSE
Let's jump right in here with a short quiz to test your knowledge of marijuana. Are the statements here true or false?
True or False: Marijuana can cause lung cancer and other diseases. This is True. Marijuana can be very harmful and can pose a significant health risk, especially to young people.
True or False: Using marijuana can have an effect on the brain and thinking; personality and mood; behaviour. This is True. Use of marijuana has a significant effect on a person’s brain and thinking, personality and mood, behaviour and body.
True or False: Mixing marijuana with alcohol can lead to alcohol poisoning because marijuana blocks the urge to vomit, which is the body’s first defense against alcohol poisoning. This is True. Mixing marijuana with alcohol can lead to alcohol poisoning because marijuana blocks the urge to vomit, which is the body’s first defense against alcohol poisoning.
True or False: It is legal to use marijuana in Ontario. This is False. Marijuana use is not legal in Ontario. Having or using marijuana is a criminal offence that may result in paying a fine or going to jail or both.
True or False: Under the Education Act, if a principal believes your child has marijuana or other illegal drugs at school, they can choose to suspend them. This is True. Under the Education Act, if a principal believes your child has marijuana or other illegal drugs at school, they can choose to suspend them. Additionally, A principal will suspend your child and consider expulsion if they are believed to be selling or sharing illegal drugs.
WHAT IS MARIJUANA?
For those of you who might not be familiar with marijuana, we'll start with the basics. There are three forms of cannabis that come from the cannabis sativa plant: marijuana, the dried leaves; hash or hashish, the sticky resin; and hash oil.
Although the word “cannabis” is used to refer to all three, it can also go by other names including: pot, grass, weed, reefer, dope, and ganja. For ease of understanding, we will refer to all three forms as marijuana.
Marijuana is used in many ways.
· The most common method is smoking marijuana rolled into a cigarette called a “joint”.
· Sometimes marijuana is smoked through a water pipe called a “bong.”
· Some people smoke “blunts”— cigars hollowed out and filled with the drug.
· Marijuana can also be brewed as tea or eaten as an ingredient in brownies, cookies or other foods.
THE EFFECTS OF MARIJUANA
Use of marijuana has a significant effect on a person's brain and thinking, personality and mood, behaviour and body. The effects that marijuana would have on a typical teen if she used the drug include: an impact on brain development, increased heart rate, blood shot or red eyes, dry mouth, and hunger.
People react differently under the influence of marijuana. It is difficult to know how someone will react when they use marijuana. It's affect on the body is influenced by: genetics, previous use of marijuana or any other drugs, the amount taken, and the strength. But what we do know is that marijuana use can be very harmful and can pose a significant health risk, especially to young people. The effects include impaired learning and memory, decreased motivation, concentration, and judgment, increased risk of lung problems and cancer, and panic attacks, paranoia, and hallucinations.
MARIJUANA AND ALCOHOL
Mixing marijuana with alcohol can increase the risk of alcohol poisoning. Marijuana blocks the urge to vomit, which is the body’s first defense against alcohol poisoning. Signs of alcohol poisoning include: being unable to wake up, vomiting while asleep, slow breathing or pulse, and feeling cold, pale or having blue skin. If you see any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately.
MARIJUANA AND THE LAW
Many young people today are unaware that in Canada, marijuana is an illegal drug and they don't realize that they can be charged for having or using it. The reality is that having or using marijuana is a criminal offence that may result in paying a fine or going to jail or both. Often, young people don’t realize the risks of driving under the influence of marijuana.
Kim: “My friend’s brother came to pick us up and he was smoking a joint! He said he drives better when he’s high?!?! That’s so not true! There was no way I was driving with somebody high, so I called my dad to come get me.”
MARIJUANA AND DRIVING
Some children believe that they are better drivers when high. They feel they pay more attention to the road and drive slower. The truth is marijuana slows reaction time and makes it harder to concentrate, pay attention and tell how far away things are. The effects of marijuana can last for several hours depending on how much of it is taken. This means a driver wouldn't be able to react as quickly to a sudden, unexpected emergency.
Research shows that young people have a greater chance of having a car crash when they drive after using marijuana.
MARIJUANA IN SCHOOL
There are also serious consequences for marijuana use or sale in our schools. Under the Education Act, if a principal believes your child has marijuana or other illegal drugs at school, they can choose to suspend them. A principal will suspend your child and consider expulsion if they are believed to be selling or sharing illegal drugs.
STARTING THE CONVERSATION
You have now learned a great deal about marijuana and children. So let's get the conversation started. Here are a few examples of how Barry handled it when Kim asked:
Kim: “C'mon Dad. Everyone’s smoking up.”
Barry: “(Alarmed and upset). Everybody? I know lots of young people who aren't doing it. And you're not just everybody. You're my daughter and in this house, we don't smoke.”
Barry obviously has strong feelings that Kim doesn't share. Unfortunately, being so closed minded, he's likely shut the door on future conversations. Using the strategies from other modules, here's another approach you can take when your children begin talking about situations involving marijuana.
Kim: “So we're at the concert and this guy won't stop smoking. Halfway through, he starts to freak - like, he had to be helped out.”
Barry: “Ya that can happen sometimes. People smoke stuff that is way stronger than what their body can handle. They couldn't handle it. That's why you have to be cautious. You take a joint from someone at a party, how do you know what you are smoking?”
Kim: “But what if you have your own stuff?”
Barry: “Kim, go online and do a search on how marijuana affects a young person's brain. At your age, when your mind is still developing, you have to ask yourself: Is it really worth it?”
Barry has stayed calm and avoided being angry or judgemental. He encouraged Kim to learn more about the facts. It's a great way to start the conversation, and keep it going.
Before we finish, remember, marijuana is an illegal drug. Start talking about the health risks marijuana poses to young people, especially when used with alcohol or when behind the wheel. And as we've noted, there are serious legal issues along with the risk of your child being suspended or expelled from school.
Please note: If your child or someone you know displays signs of serious drug use, don’t be afraid to seek help. Consider speaking to your family doctor, or visit talkaboutdrugs.ca for a list of community resources.
To learn more visit TalkAboutDrugs.ca.
Thanks for joining me. And remember, talk early and talk often.