Kids and Cannabis: A Parent’s New Reality

Submitted by: Trail Blazin’, written by Danielle Rosellison

I’ll never forget sitting at the dining room table. My daughter Radler was probably 4 or 5 years old, coloring in front of the fire place. Nonchalantly and out of the blue, she asked: “Mama, that plant you grow. Does it save people’s lives?”

SMACK! I was totally taken aback. We had grown adult-use cannabis in the 502 market for about a year, but we had rarely, if ever, talked about its medicinal benefits with her in the room. But kids…they pick up the darndest things! 

Hempfest 2017. The kids never get to wear Trail Blazin’ gear (even though they always ask) so Hempfest was a special treat for them, especially with their all-access passes! Photo courtesy: Trail Blazin’

“Ummm…some people think so,” I said, which seemed like the most appropriate answer at the time. She stopped for a minute, and then went back to coloring. And that was that.

And so, it began…how we talk to our kids about cannabis in today’s environment. I’m in a unique position; cannabis has literally put food on the table and a roof over their heads for as long as my kids can remember – so it’s safe to assume my kids’ exposure and questioning starts younger than most families.

My kids know a lot about cannabis. They know it’s a plant and that there are different strains that make you feel differently. They know that the State of Washington takes most of our money and makes rules that make their mama cry a lot. They know it’s illegal federally. They know that the government has lied to the people about the benefits of cannabis.

And since my kids know a lot about cannabis, it means if you’re friends with my kids, the cannabis conversation in your house will likely start early, as well. They’re of an age now that they ask each other what their parents do for work. Cannabis is bound to come up in the elementary school, it’s just under a very different pretext than when you or I were kids.

“Which water bottle can I take to karate, Mama?” We are careful about which household items go to school and practice with them. Photo courtesy: Trail Blazin’

Radler told me recently that they were talking on the playground and she heard someone else mention that their dad smokes cannabis. Radler, in her infinite wisdom, asked, “Does he smoke cannabis with pesticides in it? Because that’s not good for you and you should make sure he knows that smoking cannabis with pesticides isn’t good for him.”

We’ve always kept our cannabis above the kids’ reach, just like we do with alcohol. We were “bathroom consumers” for a while, but now it seems silly to hide our cannabis consumption. The real “a-ha” moment was when I realized I had edibles in my purse that would look enticing to elementary-aged kids. And while I would be surprised to see my kids steal candy from my purse without asking, you never know. Sunbathing at the beach, I shouted, “Radler! Coolidge! Pay attention to me for a minute. If you ever find candies in my purse that you need a knife or scissors to open, don’t eat them. They have cannabis in them. They look like this.”

“What will happen?” Coolidge, then 5, asked.

“You’re going to feel real funny. You’re not going to die, but you’re going to feel like it. And then it’ll pass.” “Ok,” they said, and went back to playing.

The Cannabis Alliance Annual Kickball Tournament 2018. We try to have as much family time as possible, especially since we can’t bring our kids to work. Ever. The cannabis community welcomes them with open arms in a family-friendly setting. Photo courtesy: Trail Blazin’

I think the big thing, kind of like the sex talk, is that it’s about age-appropriate answers and we, the adults, feel WAY more uncomfortable than the kids do. We know the stigma and history attached to the topic; they don’t. In their world, they’re just asking a normal question like, “Mama, what’s for breakfast?” or “Mama, where do babies come from?” We as adults must answer calmly, honestly and without judgement or bias. The children rarely ask a follow-up question, especially when they’re young, which means it’s time to drop it and move on. When the child is ready, they’ll ask more questions.

Not even a month ago, I was bringing my kids (9 and 6.5) home from school with a 9-year-old friend.  Radler piped up: “She’s the boss. She owns Trail Blazin’.”

“What’s Trail Blazin?” the friend asked.

“They grow cannabis. Do you know what that is?”

Here we go. What are they going to say?

“Cannabis is a plant that can help people with cancer. Basically, what the doctors give you kills all your cells, the good ones and the bad ones, but cannabis only kills the bad cells. And you want to make sure it doesn’t have pesticides. Pesticides on your cannabis isn’t good.”

Not bad, not bad. If that’s what they pick up from the conversations they eavesdrop on, I’m all right with that. That was the easy part, though; I knew I needed to call the friend’s mom and let her know this conversation had happened. Can’t you just see it: “Mom, guess what I learned at The Rosellison’s house!?!”

I’ve always worried that kids would come to our house, learn the truth about things their parents aren’t ready for them to know yet, and then my children would be shunned. Luckily, my kids have fostered relationships with other children who have similar parenting styles, and our occupation has yet to scare anyone away. And when I make phone calls to let other parents know the conversations that were had at our house, so far, they laugh and are stoked that at least their kids behaved appropriately. PHEW!

While it feels uncomfortable in the moment, honesty about those awkward questions has served our household well. Our kids know that we will always tell them the truth. And if I lied about it, I would have to ’fess up some time, and then what have I done to my relationship with my children? Telling the truth and letting the child lead the conversation hasn’t led us astray yet.

I will let you know how the teenage years treat us when we get there….

Danielle Rosellison is owner and COO of Trail Blazin’, cultivating pesticide-free, sustainably grown legal cannabis in Bellingham since 2014. She is also president of The Cannabis Alliance, a non-profit dedicated to the advancement of vital, ethical and sustainable cannabis industry. On a hyper-local level, Danielle is an Ambassador to the Bellingham Regional Chamber of Commerce. In her spare time (ha!), she loves to travel, read, ski (or snowboard) and see live music with her kids and her best friend and husband, Juddy.

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