Talking to Kids About Marijuana Legalization in New Jersey

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By Nicki Francis, Coordinator of Program and Professional Development

In November 2020, New Jersey residents voted to make recreational marijuana use legal. Many people are struggling with exactly what that means. Parents are wondering, "What do I need to know?", "How do I talk to my kids about the new law?" and "What things do I need to know to make sure my child can make educated decisions?" Here are some tips to help you talk to your kids about marijuana.

Why It's Important to Discuss Marijuana Legalization With Your Kids

When talking to youth about any substance, it is important to remember that for them it is not just weed, vape, or alcohol. For them it is the social issues and the pressure around the substance that need to be addressed. Lots of times as parents, we educate our children on stranger danger and to never take anything from someone they don't know. All too often, we don't talk to our kids about the situations that could involve their classmates, teammates, friends, or even best friends.

It is important to have discussions about how they can say "no" and still keep their friends. We need to show them how to be assertive, what it looks like, and what tone of voice should be used. It is important to remember that it is not "if" but "when" our children are going to be put in tough situations and have to make tough choices. The more we can educate them today, the better equipped they will be when the day comes, and they have to make the tough choices. Hopefully, they will have all the information they need to make the right decision. 

What Does New Jersey's Marijuana Law Include?

The New Jersey marijuana law does not just include traditional plant-based marijuana. The law will also allow for THC concentrates and edibles to be sold to anyone 21 years old or over. It does not allow for home grown use. Many youths have heard slang terms for marijuana but when working with them, it is evident that many don't realize that pot, weed, and marijuana are all the same things. This is an important point to make when talking to your child. We cannot expect them to make educated choices if they don't know the basic terms.

What Are Marijuana Concentrates and Edibles?

Concentrates can come in a variety of styles and can be used in vape systems. Concentrates are created to have a much higher THC level than traditional marijuana. THC is the mind-altering substance in marijuana. THC gives the "high" feeling. Side effects for concentrates are very different from smoked marijuana, and potential for abuse and even withdrawal symptoms are much higher.

Edibles can come in a variety of products that mimic the packaging of candy, sodas, and cookies to name a few. As a parent you may decide to not have edibles, or marijuana in any form, in your home, but it doesn't mean that your child won't have contact with them at a friend's house or a classmate might bring them into school. Edibles affect your body differently and can take up to an hour to feel an effect. This frequently results in someone taking more because they think it isn't working. Serving size really matters because it is easily possible to poison yourself when ingesting THC. 

Regular Conversations Are Key to Building Trust With Your Child

Conversations about substances with your children can be difficult or feel awkward. Please remember that although it might be hard, it is necessary that they hear the information from you. Allow them space to ask questions without freaking out. Admit if you don't have the answer, but then do the work to find the answer. Start the conversation early before there is a problem so when the issues arise you will have already laid the groundwork for talking it out.

Image credit: Photo by Any Lane from Pexels

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