How to Talk to Your Kids About Pot After They Catch You Vaping

The conversation will be awkward. But it can be constructive.

Image via iStock.

You’ve got the last season of Workaholics queued up and a bowl of freshly made popcorn by your side as you begin to take hits from your vapor pen. This cannabis fueled chill-out session is exactly what you need after a long workweek.

But just as you’re exhaling a big cloud of pot smoke, your kid walks into the room. “What are you doing, Daddy?” he asks with wide eyes.

Every anti-drug commercial of your childhood flashes through your mind in a single heartbeat – from “This is your brain on drugs” to “I learned it by watching you!

So much for chilling out. Instead, it’s time for a conversation that might rival the awkwardness of the “sex talk” if you don’t do it right. Whether you’re using cannabis medicinally or recreationally–after all, it is now legalized in the District and decriminalized in Maryland (c’mon, Virginia!)–it’s best to be open with your children about your use.

To find out how to guide such a discussion (and make sure it’s not as cringe-worthy as the birds and the bees talk your parents had with you) we spoke to two leaders in the District’s blossoming cannabis industry who are also parents: Dr. Chanda Macias, owner of the National Holistic Healing Center, a medical marijuana dispensary in Dupont Circle, and Corey Barnette, owner and operator of District Growers, a cannabis cultivator.

Don’t hide it

Be open about your usage. “When kids catch you hiding from them, it makes cannabis seem like a dirty little secret,” says Barnette. “If mom is comfortable to having a glass of wine in front of the kids, she should be just as comfortable enjoying a vapor pen. The choice to use cannabis in your house is your personal choice.”

If you have a medical marijuana card…

Macias suggests moms and dads explain how the drug helps them cope with their affliction. “Talk about it like you would any prescription,” she says. “Children need to understand that it can be medicine.”

Use pot as a jumping-off point

Since you’re already discussing drug use, you might as well have a conversation about other mind-altering substances. “When we talked to our daughters about cannabis, it was as much about alcohol, tobacco, and certain meds,” says Barnette, who doesn’t believe children should try cannabis until they’re at least 21 years old. “We talked about the side effects for all of them and what responsible use looks like.”

Teach your kids how to say ‘no’

“If you don’t prepare them, they’ll just conform because they won’t know what else to do,” says Macias, who recommends telling the child to simply say they’re asthmatic or have a low tolerance, so they would prefer not to indulge if they’re offered weed.

But they’re probably going to try marijuana anyway

So make sure they know the ground rules for ensuring they’re as safe as possible when they do. “I prefer you do it in a safe environment with those who have your best interests at heart, because you don’t know how you’re going to react,” Macias recommends parents telling children. “Do not drive; call us for a ride. We won’t necessarily be happy, but we will be there at your time of need.”

Be discreet

Since many people hold negative impressions of pot and its users, Macias believes children are best served by staying quiet about their parent’s pot use with their peers. “This way, the kids avoid judgments of their families that might be hurtful,” she says.


Parenting writer

Nevin Martell is a parenting, food, and travel writer whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, New York Times, Saveur, Men’s Journal, Fortune, Travel + Leisure, Runner’s World, and many other publications. He is author of eight books, including It’s So Good: 100 Real Food Recipes for Kids, Red Truck Bakery Cookbook: Gold-Standard Recipes from America’s Favorite Rural Bakery, and the small-press smash Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and His Revolutionary Comic Strip. When he isn’t working, he loves spending time with his wife and their six-year-old son, who already runs faster than he does.