Teens Need Different Messaging about Marijuana than ‘Just Say No’

by Maggie Reese ‘24

With the legalization of recreational marijuana in Maryland beginning on July 1 for adults age 21 and older, it is more clear than ever that the use of marijuana has become nearly as accepted and normalized as drinking alcohol. It no longer makes sense or is realistic to continue thinking that marijuana should be grouped with cocaine, heroin, and other dangerous and addictive drugs. However, that does not mean that there are no risks from marijuana use. As teens head towards adulthood, the advice about marijuana needs to adjust to the times. Parents who grew up repeatedly being told “don’t do drugs” or “just say no” should talk with their teenage children about marijuana with more nuance and realism. Talking to teens directly and honestly about marijuana and alcohol will more likely increase the odds of an open and respectful relationship with a parent. Simply saying, “don’t do drugs” is an unhelpful statement when recreational marijuana is now legal in nearly half the states in the country.  Parents need to talk about marijuana usage the same as they might about alcohol, since both will be legal to use for those age 21 and older. High school students already have so much exposure and availability to marijuana, and it is native for parents to think otherwise. Having a conversation allows parents to set clear rules about what they expect from their kids when it comes to alcohol and now marijuana as well.

Some might believe that it is risky to tell teens that marijuana is more similar to alcohol than it is to other drugs, but most teenagers already think this way. Drugs and alcohol are a huge topic all over the county, especially drug abuse in teenagers and people with mental illness. To classify marijuana and cocaine, for example, as equally dangerous is simply untrue. Also, . marijuana use is normalized through social media such as Snapchat and Instagram, as well as in depictions and references from the music industry and on television. Simply put, marijuana is part of the cultural mainstream, and parents and other adults should help teens navigate that reality.  

It is never too early to talk to teenagers about drug use. . If they are not using marijuana, they very likely have been exposed to it. According to the Centers for Disease and Control,  “more than one in three high school students (37%) have used marijuana, with one in five (22%) admitting to using this drug within the past month.”  The sooner parents talk about marijuana and alcohol, the greater chance they have of influencing their children’s  decisions. Not talking about this subject at all is more harmful than helpful. Kids don’t have all these facts when it comes to these substances, and they might not even see any harm in trying these things. Having these conversations sets clear rules about what parents expect from their children when it comes to alcohol and marijuana.