Cannabis has recently become legal in Canada and as a result, it has become a hot topic. Just about everyone has questions about what Canada’s new legislation will mean.

For parents, difficult questions linger. How do I talk to my teen about cannabis? What do I need to know to help them create healthy habits? What are the risks or benefits of cannabis for my teen?

There are no easy answers to these questions, but here are a few things to remember when the topic comes up.

1) It’s OK to Have Questions

Let’s be honest.

A lot of people have an opinion about cannabis, legal or otherwise.

And everyone has a source to back up their opinion. It can be hard to determine what’s true and what’s most relevant to your teen’s situation.

You’re not alone.

The questions you’re asking, the things you wonder about, the worries you have – other parents are wondering too. Everyone wants to do what’s best for their teen, and there aren’t always clear-cut answers. The topic of cannabis is a delicate one and not knowing exactly how to address it with your teen, or even what you think about it yourself, is ok.

Having questions doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong. It means you want to do what is right.

Your questions aren’t a hindrance. If you let them, they will help you discover what’s best for you and your teen.

2) Your Teen Has Questions, Too

There is a lot of information about cannabis out there. Some research highlights health benefits when cannabis is used for medicinal purposes, while other research illuminates the potentially damaging effects of the substance.

If the immense amount of information seems overwhelming to you, there’s a good chance your teen is feeling the information overload, too. It’s possible their friends and peers have praised the health benefits they’ve heard of, while their teachers have warned against any kind of non-prescription drug use – including cannabis. It can be hard to determine the truth – or even just the relevant facts – in the midst of so much information and conflicting opinions.

So, if you’re struggling to make sense of all the information out there, know that your teen may have just as many questions as you do.

Instead of trying to answer all of their questions right away, take the time to listen to them. Understand what it is that your teen thinks and wants to know, and then work together to figure out the answers.

3) Cannabis Is Legal – for Adults

Though cannabis is now legal, it is still very strictly regulated. And the regulations are especially important for teens to understand.

Just like cigarettes and alcohol, in order to buy or consume cannabis legally, a person must have reached the age of majority in their province or territory.

It doesn’t matter if your teen’s friends are experimenting with cannabis, or if they aren’t worried about the effects of cannabis on their brain. A minor still cannot buy or consume cannabis legally. However, each province has varying rules regarding the possession of cannabis for minors. Be sure to look them up if you’re not sure what they are.

Your teen may be interested in experimenting with cannabis, and may not see what the big deal is now that it’s legal in Canada.

But it’s still illegal for minors to use cannabis. And breaking the law is a big deal. There can be consequences for minors who buy or consume cannabis, and for adults who sell to minors. Encourage your teen to follow the law and make honest choices. If your teen is truly interested, they can decide to try out cannabis when they’re old enough to do so legally.

But until then, your teen should think carefully about whether experimenting with cannabis is worth the risk of breaking the law.

4) Your Teen May Use – Or May Not

Some teens will experiment with cannabis; others will not. Some teens may decide to use cannabis regularly, while others may never touch it.

If you want to know how to talk with your teen about cannabis, it’s important to know if they use it or not, and what they think about it. Your conversation with your teen may vary somewhat depending on whether your teen is slightly interested, very interested, or not interested at all.

If you have discovered that your teen uses cannabis, you may be struggling to decide what to do. Drug-Free Kids Canada has created a resource with helpful tips on how to minimize the harmful effects of cannabis in a teen who has started using, and how to talk to your teen whether or not they use at all.

Consider this: whether or not your teen ever tries cannabis, you both still need to be informed about the laws, risks, and peer pressure surrounding it.

5) Set Boundaries – and Stick to Them

No matter how interested your teen is in using cannabis, or whether they have already experimented with it, it’s important to set clear boundaries surrounding cannabis.

These boundaries will look different for every family – and that’s ok!

Talk with your teen about their interest in cannabis – if they use it, or if their friends do. Make sure you ask questions and listen to their questions or insights, then talk together about the best ways to deal with temptations that may arise, or what they can do or say in a given situation.

Remember that when you set boundaries, it’s important to stick to them. If you and your teen agree on certain cannabis boundaries, make sure you keep them accountable to it. Follow up on a regular basis and ask questions.

Hold your teen to the standard you’ve set.

6) You Love Your Teen No Matter What

The most important thing to remember when talking to your teen about cannabis is to always communicate how much you love them. Make sure your teen understands that your concern is due to your care for their health, safety, and well-being.

Cannabis can be a difficult and sensitive subject for a lot of parents and teens, so it is important for your teen to understand that you want to talk about it because you care about and want what is best for them.

Show your teen your love and support no matter what. Let them know that you want to help them make good choices so they can be happy and healthy.

The Most Important Thing to Remember

The conversation about cannabis may not be easy, especially since legalization has taken effect. But with research, careful listening and love, parents and teens can come to a better understanding of cannabis and its role in your family.

Written by Nancy Razkalla