No KiddingBy Arrissia Owen
Talking to kids about drugs can be touchy. Add to that a parent who is a patient or cannabis user, and the conversation can take a drastically different direction.
To tell or not to tell? Can a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do-at-least-until-you’re-much-older discussion sink in? When the state and federal governments can’t even agree whether the stuff is all bad, how do mom and pop explain cannabis’ complexities to the kiddos?
Parents today grew up during a time when drug use was prevalent, and may even have dabbled a bit. The Reefer Madness shtick of their parents’ parents no longer exists as anything more than a joke except to Fox News pundits and its sycophants.
And to muddy the waters, many states—20 at last count, plus Washington, D.C.—are just saying no to prohibition, legalizing cannabis for medicinal and/or recreational purposes. There’s even a 2005 children’s book, now in its third printing, illustrated, written by and self-published by Ricardo Cortes, called It’s Just A Plant: A Children’s Story About Marijuana, meant for younger children to read and discuss with parents. As you can imagine, Bill O’Reilly and the gang lost their unimpaired minds over that one.
But for parents grappling with how to even begin such a conversation, particularly those consuming cannabis to help battle the effects of cancer, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease or other ailments, a children’s book doesn’t sound like such a bad start.
Cortes, a childless New Yorker who famously illustrated the tongue-in-cheek bedtime story Go the Fuck to Sleep, was inspired to create the book after conversations with friends. He listened to the worries of high-functioning cannabis users facing the cannabis conundrum with their kids and got to writing.
Sure enough, conservatives went batshit crazy over the book, culminating in Cortes’ rear in the hot seat on The O’Reilly Factor. An Indiana congressman even held up the book up in Capitol Hill during a subcommittee meeting and accused the Drug Policy Alliance of being in cahoots.
Cortes left out the clinical effects of cannabis, which when talking to teens could be the clincher. “I was trying to juggle,” Cortes says. “This is actually a children’s book. Some people see it as a joke or a snarky way of talking about this thing. But I wanted to speak in a very clear language they can understand.”
For cannabis-using parents of adolescents, the language probably should become more clinical. Parents can explain that the medicinal qualities of marijuana are too strong for young people with noggins undergoing neurological transformations.
According to Dr. Timmen Cermak, a private practice doctor who specializes in addiction and psychiatry, a person who starts using the plant between ages 13 and 19 is at higher risk for cannabis abuse. Studies have shown that because a teenager’s brain is still maturing and developing in the frontal lobe, regular use of cannabis may have an effect on brain growth that leads to more advanced cognitive abilities and executive functions, Cermak says.
If you use cannabis as an adult, “there probably is not that much impact it’s going to have on your life,” Cermak says.
“But if you do the same thing from 14 to 16, you could gravely modify whether you go to college or be as effective in adolescence. Not to put more pressure, but it’s the truth.”
It’s Just A Plant follows Jackie, who is awakened one night by a strange smell. She goes to her parents, who decide to teach her the facts about the green. Jackie and her parents set off on a quest that starts at a veggie farm where cannabis is grown. She learns about the history of the plant, its medicinal and recreational uses, the legal issues surrounding the drug and more. In the end, Jackie decides that when she gets older she wants to vote to help legalize the cultivation and consumption of the plant. The book does not promote cannabis for kids. For more information, visit www.justaplant.com.