Part 4 of How to Do the Pot’s series The Pot Talk explores what happens when a teenager has too little school, no sports, and is staving off boredom…just add weed. We talk to mothers in the cannabis industry with experience answering these complex questions, offer the advice of medical experts, and share one mother’s story of finding her 13-year old experimenting with cannabis. Plus, 5 tips to help you start the conversation with your favorite teenager.
April Pride: This podcast discusses cannabis and is intended for audiences 21 and over.
Yoko Miyashita, Leafly: Please, please, let’s have a conversation about this before you go there. I want to give you the information so you can help teach your friends and get them to understand. And that may be a very high expectation of a 15-year-old, but it’s kind of that theory of, if I can give him all the information upfront, perhaps some of it will stick.
April Pride: Happy new year and welcome back to How to Do the Pot. Today, we’re jumping into the next topic, the most asked about topic related to weed in my role at the moment, the next topic in The Pot Talk Series. What is The Pot Talk? It’s like the drinking talk, but for weed. And remember, the drinking talk is one we have with our kids, our parents, and sometimes our friends. I bet if you think about it, there is somebody in your life that could use The Pot Talk, especially after 2020.
April Pride: If you’re one of the many women who has found relief with cannabis, we’re here to help, because what does come next after cannabis has been deemed essential medicine for millions of Americans. You just heard from Yoko Miyashita, CEO of Leafly, a cannabis education platform, and one of our favorite resources in the industry, Yoko is also a mother of two teenagers. And what happens when a teenager has too little school, no sports, is staving off boredom, and you just add weed? What do we know about teens and weed?
April Pride: That’s what we’re talking about today in this next episode of the Pot Talk. So far, we’ve covered talking a friend into getting high, talking to an older friend or relative about getting high, or talking to someone you think maybe gets too high too often. And today, this topic hits a little too close to home for me at the moment, living with a 14-year-old. When I started working in weed five years ago, the pot talk I had with my kids was personal, but it wasn’t a personal reality.
April Pride: The idea of my elementary age school kids navigating weed was hypothetical, making it much easier to intellectualize. Then the sudden reality that kids, my kid, can score weed on Snapchat happened. But based on the number of inquiries I’ve received from parents of teens, we all feel our control over these young boys, who are now taller than us, evaporated seemingly overnight. On one hand, it’s simply normal development, as kids ages, 12 to 14, are more influenced by their peers’ opinions than by adults.
April Pride: On the other, what would be averted by the steadfast age advice, keep them busy and keep them out of trouble, has been made much more difficult by COVID. Teens are spending unstructured time with their peers and without the supervision of teachers or coaches or parents in their right mind. One of the major concerns of anti-cannabis advocates is that it will increase use in teenagers. The good news is that 20 studies from states with legal cannabis show that teen consumption does not go up when states legalize it.
April Pride: But how old were you when you first tried it? Yeah, probably under age. I got a text from a close friend who’s not into weed. She texted me a pic of a vape pen that she was holding in her hand and said something to the effect of, “Will a room smell if this is just sitting in a gym bag? If it hasn’t been used, can a room smell like weed?” Now, of course, this is the totally shitty part of my job. I’m a snitch. Let’s face it. And I’m not even picking on people my own size. We’re like the mommy mafia trying to keep these kids straight.
April Pride: While COVID brings its own special challenges to raising a drug-free kid, odorless, off-market vape pens make a global pandemic seem like an easy fix. In August of 2019, news reports began about otherwise healthy people having symptoms of a lung disease that seemed to be tied to vaping. Across the U.S., over 2,500 people became gravely ill, and 68 people died from vaping related issues that have now been linked to vitamin E acetate in unlicensed vape cartridges. Two-thirds of those affected were between the ages of 18 and 34.
April Pride: Let’s add that terrifying stat to the already challenging task of keeping weed away from teenagers. Yoko was only a few weeks into her job as CEO of Leafly. She had been general counsel prior to her appointment to the top job, and she worked closely with Leafly reporter David Downs, as he broke the story and became the go-to source for mainstream news outlets. Being on the front lines of the industry during this challenging time has given her a strong foundation for how to talk to kids about the risks related to cannabis.
Yoko Miyashita, Leafly: I try to sort of insert what I have learned and try not to be overbearing about it, but at the same time, making sure people are armed with the right information to make the right decisions for themselves and for their kids is super important to me personally. If nothing else, please, please, please, licensed versus unlicensed. Let me tell you the risks and the benefits. As is Leafly, a huge proponent of the legal market, so we have that conversation.
Yoko Miyashita, Leafly: And I actually use Vape Gate and the data from Vape Gate to say, “Hey, I want to just tell you what happened here in this instance. You may not have followed, but did you know about the story?” And ultimately, it’s about keeping consumers safe and giving them the news and information they need. Because what happened was is as soon as those stories published, everyone who was buying from non-licensed sources threw their carts away.
Yoko Miyashita, Leafly: So we were able to tell them, “Listen, this is not a licensed industry issue. This is all stuff coming from the illegal market.” And we knew that because we understood supply chains on both sides.
April Pride: Jessie Casner is also a mother and she works for the vape company California-based Vessel. She stresses the importance of the legal cannabis market.
Jessie Casner, Vessel: I am working in the part of the industry that is probably the most likely place that a teen is going to get their hands on things right now because of all of the reasons that adults like it, it’s discreet. It’s easy to travel with. It’s easy to store. Those same benefits are the things that also make it really easy to hide. And I guess maybe that’s the correlation to make. Would you drink Moonshine alcohol?
Jessie Casner, Vessel: I guess a high school probably would, but ideally they would not drink out of somebody’s bathtub of Moonshine, but that’s essentially what these black market cartridges are. They are slamming who knows what into it.
April Pride: And what may come from who knows what? What about the effects of pot on teens’ developing brains? A 2018 study in the American Journal of Psychiatry shows reason to be concerned about the long-lasting effects of cannabis versus alcohol. While alcohol and cannabis both affect the teen brain by impacting memory and executive function, here’s the key point, the impact of cannabis on cognitive functioning are greater over time, and the effect was stronger among those who started using earlier.
April Pride: If you’ve listened to episode 44 of How to Do the Pot, how do you know, asking for a friend here, if one smokes too much weed? You’ll know that marijuana can be addictive, and its used during adolescence may make problem use or addiction more likely. People who began using cannabis before the age of 18 are four to seven times more likely than adults to develop a marijuana use disorder. Teens that report consuming as a coping mechanism for stress or to self-medicate for mental health conditions are at a greater risk of problematic use over time.
April Pride: Yoko relies on this data when she talks to her sons, all the while knowing that this is not going to be just one conversation.
Yoko Miyashita, Leafly: We’ve had very explicit conversations around brain development. You have to have that conversation about drinking. You have to have that conversation about weed. You’re going to have that conversation about all sorts of other drugs that are going to come into his life. But we do tag team this. My husband’s a firefighter EMS. He’s hearing it from all sides, because he’s seeing all sorts of other right impacts of other things and opioids. We’ve been very sort of explicit.
Yoko Miyashita, Leafly: Let’s just share the stories so you can understand and hopefully that colors your decision-making, and we can just slow all of it down just by half a step or add a layer of thinking into it.
April Pride: I spent a lot of time in Canada leading up to the 2018 federal legalization with my last cannabis company, Van der Pop, and trust the Canadian approach, which is centered on harm reduction rather than assuming abstinence will work for those under 21 or under 19, in the case of Canada. Harm reduction is rooted in data that humans consume substances and concedes realities that some people, definitely parents, have trouble accepting. Rather than subscribing to just say no, the idea is, think through your behavior related to consumption as a risk reward.
Jessie Casner, Vessel: It’s the same way that ideally parents approach sex with their kids and alcohol with their kids. These are all parts of life. These are all things that are going to be introduced to you sooner than your parents would like. But here’s how to handle it, here’s how to handle yourself, here’s why certain things are unsafe. And if you’re put in that position or you’re put in a situation where you’re presented with it, whatever it is, here’s what I would like you to do, here’s what I think our family values are and how you should be living up to those.
April Pride: You know, we call the guests on our show guides. They all know their way around cannabis and their kids know that too. So how do parents navigate being consumers and also not wanting their kids to consume? Dr. Jessica Knox, the Harvard trained MD and co-founder of the American Cannabinoid Clinics, thinks it’s an opportunity to have a different kind of conversation.
Dr Jessica Knox, The American Cannabinoid Clinics: We always try to reassure parents, particularly parents who are coming and bringing their children in for medical care. Because what we know is that all of these studies that have shown cannabis reduces IQ points or cannabis reduces ambition or whatever it may be, those studies we have to put them in their proper context. Those were studies done to show the harms of cannabis, and they were done on folks who are heavy, long-term cannabis users.
Dr Jessica Knox, The American Cannabinoid Clinics: So when we’re treating children or teenagers for various conditions, and we’re giving them medical guidance of how to use it as a medicine, we’re generally not, as you can imagine, giving them extremely high THC and having them dose so that they’re high all the time. That’s not what we’re doing. For parents of kids who are not patients, but might be recreating with cannabis, it’s a good learning opportunity.
Dr Jessica Knox, The American Cannabinoid Clinics: The brain is doing obviously a lot of developmental work until we’re in our early twenties, and the endocannabinoid system is very finely tuned throughout our lives. But certainly as our brains are developing, and so we do want to be careful about introducing exogenous cannabinoids, especially THC, which can induce a high with young people who have developing brains.
Dr Jessica Knox, The American Cannabinoid Clinics: But I think what’s nice about cannabis legalization is that it’s giving us and parents, in particular, an opportunity to have reasonable conversations with kids, as opposed to being like, “Well, that drug’s illegal, so just stay away from it,’ or perpetuating whatever those myths are. When a drug is illegal, it really prevents us from having deep and productive conversations about it.
Dr Jessica Knox, The American Cannabinoid Clinics: But now that cannabis is legal and it’s easier to find and there are “accepted uses for it,” all of a sudden we can talk to our kids about cannabis as a medicine, and this is how people use it responsibly, but it can also be used to have fun, but these are the concerns we have about it. And maybe this is a way to use it safely and responsibly, and maybe this is a way to not use it as such.
Dr Jessica Knox, The American Cannabinoid Clinics: We can start having more intelligent conversations with young people about cannabis, just in the same way that teaching abstinence isn’t a very good method of sexual education teaching. Just the straight up perpetuating the narrative of prohibition is not a responsible way to talk to our kids about cannabis either.
Jessie Casner, Vessel: Sandra Guynes, AKA, The Kush Nurse, is a mother and an RN with over 15 years of experience.
Sandra Guynes, The Kush Nurse: I remember D.A.R.E. was like the first time I saw like crack. When the D.A.R.E. Program came to my school, I was like, “That’s crack. Wow.” I’d never seen hard drugs. I lived in the Bronx. I mean, there were drugs everywhere. It surprises me now where you can turn on any YouTube channel or anywhere and there are people doing drugs. You can learn how to cook meth and all kinds of stuff on YouTube. You know what I mean? It’s just crazy. I think that it is about harm reduction, especially with teens.
Sandra Guynes, The Kush Nurse: It’s like, we know that it’s taught that this is just as bad as heroin and other drugs. If we say this is the same as those, but then they see us using cannabis or they see cannabis amongst their friends, they’re going to be less likely to be afraid of heroin because they’re being taught that these are equivalent drugs. And they’re like, “Well, marijuana didn’t kill anyone. Cannabis didn’t kill anyone. Well, maybe heroin is not going to kill me because it’s all a lie, right?” I mean, that’s what they’re saying about cannabis.
Sandra Guynes, The Kush Nurse: It just creates a narrative and a very destructive kind of environment for kids. Because of the lies, because of the stigma, because of all the things, and because of cannabis being grouped in with all these other drugs, we’re not really able to show them the difference between these drugs that can kill you and this plant that is gentle.
April Pride: Jessie shares her tips.
Jessie Casner, Vessel: And I think more than anything, if you open up that dialogue, if you can say, “Yes, I consume. This is how I consume. This is why, this is when,” then when you opened the door to questions and to conversations, and I think that’s really important, but I think more than anything, an education around kids are going to consume. They just are. They have been forever. We all did. Apples behind the bleachers, whatever it was. To educate people, teens, everyone on how to do it safely, on to look for, who not to be buying things from.
Jessie Casner, Vessel: I don’t know that it’s any different than a conversation that you would have around prescription pills, right? If you get your wisdom teeth out and they give you some pain medication for that, it’s applicable for that very specific time that you need it, but it is not an all the time thing.
April Pride: Why do teens turn to weed? The top reasons are pleasure, general enjoyment, being social, and to relax, followed by experimentation, connecting with peers, and “fitting in.” Kia Baker, a military vet, mother and host of The Female Veterans Podcast, shares her family story.
Kia Baker, The Female Veterans Podcast: His teenage years started with a rude awakening to me to realize I had a teenager, because I was still thinking of him as my baby, right? My son has already experimented. He got caught when he was 13, and he found something, I guess, and took it to his cousin. And his cousin was like, “Cool. This is what this is.” He happened to get caught by my best friend where he was spending the night, and she found him with things. We immediately had to have a conversation, and I said to him just like this.
Kia Baker, The Female Veterans Podcast: I said, “I don’t think marijuana is bad. It’s a flower, for God’s sake.” I said, “It actually has a lot of really good benefits and it actually helps a lot of people. So I don’t want you to think that this is bad. However, you’re still growing. And this is probably the only time in your life that it’s going to be bad for you. You’re not done developing, so you need to hold off on this until you’re done developing.” And that is the policy in my house, but we did have an open conversation about it. And we had a deep talk about it, and we still have talks about it.
Kia Baker, The Female Veterans Podcast: And also, I drug test because he got caught with it before, so I don’t take any chances. I’m prior military and this is what we do. So I do surprise urinalysis. What I do before that is I say maybe the day before, “You’re going to have a drug test tomorrow. Is there anything you want to tell me? Don’t make me waste the drug test. You should tell me the truth right now.” And I’ve been instilling in him since he was very small that the truth will get you in less trouble than the lie, right? So he tells me the truth.
Kia Baker, The Female Veterans Podcast: I think we’ve had two more experiences where he came clean and he took the consequences. And then we had another conversation because repetition is what gets it in. You are not done growing. When you’re done growing, we can revisit this conversation and there’ll be other rules if you’re living in my house. That’s how I handled it. The parent is going to know what’s best for consequences for their kid. I hate to say like punishment, but I like to show that it’s cause and effect and actions have consequences.
Kia Baker, The Female Veterans Podcast: And those actions… My son doesn’t like to be grounded. He likes his freedom. So that works for him.
April Pride: Yoko and Jessie’s high profile cannabis jobs make it impossible not to talk about it with their kids and other parents.
Jessie Casner, Vessel: I was talking to a girlfriend about this, and she has a 14 year old. She was like, “Everything I do in front of my kids, whatever it is, it immediately becomes uncool because I did it. And the only time that that is not applicable is with alcohol and with weed.” She’s like, “I think the way to get your kids to not do it is like we have to find a way to make weed so uncool, you know?” And I was like, “Well, good luck.” Yes, what you do as a parent is embarrassing to your kid. Breathing is embarrassing to them.
Jessie Casner, Vessel: I remember those days of when it was embarrassing to be around my parents, but kids want to… They want to play act adult, right? And I think that is some of the hard part about being in this industry. Because for a lot of us, it is an every day or every month or weekly part of our lives, and it’s certainly something that we talk about around the dinner table because it is part of what we do.
Yoko Miyashita, Leafly: Conversation with parents inevitably includes, what do you do? And so I just maybe welcome or not, I like to give the information upfront. I like to tell the stories. I like to ask, are you having the cannabis talk? What are you telling them? Here’s some tidbits of data you may want to use. If they weren’t curious, you almost start to be concerned. I spend a lot with our subject matter experts. Read up on sort of these impact, where developmentally from the brain is it a good time or not a good time? I’ve tried to just be super upfront about the data.
Yoko Miyashita, Leafly: I express my preferences to them where, “This is going to come into your life at some point. Here’s some information around how I would like you to think about this issue as it comes up in your life, here are the risks and they’re real.”
April Pride: And for today’s high five, ways to help you start the conversation. Number one, teen consumption doesn’t go up in legal states because it’s regulated and harder to get. Think about trying to buy alcohol from an ABC Store. Not easy. But being under age means not being able to buy from a legal dispensary, which is the only place where the product is safely regulated. And lethally formulated cannabis oil isn’t the only illicit cannabis product with deadly outcomes.
April Pride: In the show notes, we’ll link to a vice video on what’s happening to weed in Germany, and this video was originally shared to me from my 14 year old son. Not all flower is 100% natural, particularly when it’s sprayed with synthetic cannabinoids. This is what’s happening today to devastating personal effects, but dealers are selling hand over fist because weed has been Frankensteined into a substance as addictive as crack and meth. Sadly, this will be the next public health crisis we face. I’m certain of it.
April Pride: Number two, parents in the cannabis industry obviously believe in this plant. The mothers we talk to start with honest conversations about the different ways that cannabis can be used for medicine and for recreation. They also set boundaries about their expectations for following household rules. Number three, some parents tell me they would rather have their teen try cannabis than alcohol, mostly due to driving related risks. I hear you, and I thought the same until that 2018 study we mentioned above.
April Pride: Number four, cannabis has been legal for medical patients in Canada since 2001 and for adult use since 2018. So the way they’ve handled the kids in weed conversation offers helpful tips about harm reduction, rather than subscribing to just say no. The idea behind harm reduction is to think through behavior related to consumption as risk reward. In the show notes, we’ll link to the Canadian students for sensible drug policy, the Sensible Cannabis Education Toolkit. Number five, how old were you when you first tried pot?
April Pride: Here in Seattle, regardless of their current consumption habits, most everyone I’ve talked to who has tried weed tried it for the first time at 14, like around ninth grade. Start a dialogue now to get ahead of what your kids are learning on social media. Just know you’re not alone and it’s probably going to be a series of conversations over time. We hope this pot talk has offered you some ideas for how to talk to your kids about weed. Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks. And if you have a conversation, we’d love to hear how it goes.
April Pride: Thank you for listening to The Pot Talk. Find us on Instagram @dothepot and you can follow me at @aprilpride. And for lots more information about cannabis and women, visit dothepot.com. A special thanks to Ashleigh Brown, founder of Winnipeg-based SheCann, a community of Canadian women who are cannabis patients. She introduced me to the Cannabis Education Toolkit. And thanks to my co-founder Ellen Scanlon, Madi Fair, our brand manager, and our producer, Nick Patri.
April Pride: I’m April Pride, and we’ll be back soon with more of How to Do the Pot.
So you must be legal, too. Age 21+ invited to continue.