So, as I mentioned, last week Jack asked his dad and I for our thoughts about pot.
Being the seat-of-our-pants kind of parents we are, it hadn’t occurred to either of us to coordinate what we were going to say when this subject inevitably arose. That was stupid. Both of us at Jack’s age were doing things that could have had consequences. We knew parenting teens could get bumpy.
We have had conversations about how little we looked forward to dealing with teenage shenanigans. These conversations weren’t as productive as they should have been. They tended to favor nostalgia over strategy, and end with prayers of gratitude that no one could post selfies on social media when we were teens.
Other than that we’ve been living in happy-sparkly-unicorn land where gumdrops grow on trees and don’t cause cavities, and we’ll use a magic wand to deal with teenagers when the time comes.
Such a nice alternative reality we’ve created.
Not knowing at all what I am going to say never stops me from answering a weighty question, though, so I jumped right in. Mike was driving, and I occasionally looked to see if he was nodding, drawing his eyebrows together in consternation, or shooting me a look of alarm.
What I got, at least initially, was one quick look that may have been: good luck with this one, I have to pay attention to the driving thing.
Disclaimer: I’m no expert on parenting – no really, I’m NOT – or on anything, for that matter. But since my post on Monday where I alluded to this conversation, some of you have asked for detail. So here’s the gist of my response (more or less. I mean, I’ve had the benefit of a little time to organize my thoughts):
First, a few facts:
- Pot is legal to some degree in four states that border ours, so it’s likely that our kid will encounter someone in the near future with easy access, or at least a relaxed attitude.
- That being the case, the possession, use and sale of pot is still illegal where we live – and I would put money on our state being the last hold out in the union where that’s concerned. Penalties vary, and have the potential to sully the permanent record of a prospective candidate for any particular institute for higher learning, and certain professional careers.
- Our view on whether those laws are fair and/or reasonable will have little bearing on the matter should any member of the family be charged.
- Any adolescent who still cares to dabble should consider his brain is still developing, and a whole range of things could alter that development. His propensity for addiction is strong at this age. Adolescent experimentation with pot, alcohol or other substances may be par for the course, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay, and it doesn’t diminish the potential for brain-altering consequences. That’s not my opinion. That’s science.
- The use of pot is detectible immediately and even days later. Should I suspect anything, I have a full retinue of mad forensic skills to bring to the table. Try me…
- No, actually don’t try me. That was just an expression.
Okay, granted, the original question was what do we think about pot, so here’s the subjective stuff:
- Due to the activity in states bordering ours, the decriminalization of pot is a topic du jour, and I think there is a good case for it. So, as it happens, does former US Labor Secretary Robert Reich, one of the smartest people on the planet. He sums up the problem rather well by pointing to the flourishing drug cartel in Central America, and the deluge of non violent offenders currently behind bars as a direct result of marijuana laws, and the US War on Drugs. Criminalization of marijuana has done little to stem the use of pot, has been expensive to enforce and resulted in consequences nobody anticipated.
- Those who would argue against the decriminalization of pot point to the associated risks and health hazards of its use. After a full twenty-seven seconds of internet research, I was unable to find anything that pointed to any effect more profound than those related to the abuse of alcohol or tobacco, both of which have very real annual costs to public health, and which are legal. I don’t want to downplay those effects, but compared to legal, regulated substances, pot doesn’t always fare so badly.
I do have a tendency to lecture – no, really, shush – and at this point in the conversation attention wavered and we were never asked the follow-up questions we dreaded…
Rhetorical deluge. It’s a tactic I’ve been cultivating. Use it in good health.
… But those questions are coming. I know: Have we smoked pot? How did it feel? Did we turn into google-eyed zombies a la Refer Madness? Do we experience flashbacks?
To that end, I don’t ever plan to get very specific, any more than to quantify my own experiences as underwhelming. I’m not in a big hurry to get my hands on more of some of the ganja. I don’t need something to help me relax. I don’t care for any substance that muddles my thoughts or makes me lethargic, paranoid or gives me the munchies. I don’t like spending my own money on, or taking risks for something that has so little return, and I hate wasting other people’s stash when offered.
I have had friends who discretely smoke pot and don’t resemble Scooby’s friend Shaggy, or Jeff Spicoli. They are productive citizens. They are creative, intelligent, tax paying and and otherwise law abiding. They don’t normally engage in risky behavior. They are funny and kind. They are not part of a “drug culture,” and they never call me dude.
What do I think about pot? I think there’s a host of scarier stuff out there that makes me want to wrap my kids in bubble wrap and hide them in the basement to protect them.
I’m not ambivalent about pot, but I’m not terribly freaked out about its use either – for consenting adults.
I’m not sure if I’ve made the case I meant to at this point. I know the conversation will have to be revisited. I also know the words “no, not now, not ever” are the parental equivalent of red flags waved in front of pawing, snorting, young bulls. I don’t plan on using them.
I know that the next time Jack goes out with friends, he may very well find himself in the company of people who are smoking pot. I’ll remind him to pay attention to the inner voice I know usually does well by him, and to respond when asked if he’d like a hit with a raised palm and a casual “nah, man, I’m good. Thanks anyway.”
And that he can call us for a ride. No lectures. Cross my heart.
Photo: US National Archives
Do you find yourself wishing we could go back to happy-sparkly-unicorn land? That place was the BOMB, wasn’t it?
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