parents complete guide to marijuana
(Last Updated On: April 21, 2015)

It may sound too good to be true, referendum initiatives to legalize recreational marijuana in Alaska, Oregon and the District of Colombia have finally ended in majority of YES votes in the November 4 election, Oregon and the District of Colombia have finally ended in majority of YES votes in the November 4 elections. That’s indeed good news to everyone as we head toward the full legalization of marijuana across the country.

Now that the marijuana business is going full-gear and access to the drug is as easy as buying aspirin over the counter, let’s turn the spotlight to our homes, where our children might use or abuse the privilege of easy access to pot depends in part on our responsibility as parents.

Why Parents Need to Know Everything About Marijuana

So, why should parents educate themselves about this controversial drug even more? It’s because a larger part of the population who use marijuana now comprises young individuals. In 2008, a Monitoring the Future national study shows that 43% of 12th graders have reported to have used marijuana. Thanks to the ever decreasing anti-drug ads and the increasing media exposure of pop culture, protests and ads supporting marijuana, the perception that marijuana is a dangerous drug has become more and more obsolete.

As parents, these numbers should mean everything to you, as you are now aware of the greater probability that your teenager might be exposed to the drug at an inappropriately younger age. Let’s do a thorough discussion on what you need to know, including whether cannabis is really harmful to one’s health at a certain age.

What Parents Need to Know About Marijuana

What Marijuana is All About

Let’s get to the basics: Marijuana is the usable part or mixture of dried, ground or shredded leaves, seeds, flowers or stem of the hemp plant, the scientific name of which is cannabis sativa or cannabis indica. To avoid confusion, we use the term cannabis when we talk about marijuana or its derivatives from the hemp plant.

The most common drug derived from the hemp plant is sinsemilla, which is processed from the flowering buds or tops of the female hemp; hashish, which is a thick resin from the female flowers); and hash oil, a thick liquid processed and distilled from hashish. Other forms of drugs extracted from cannabis are BHO or many other forms of concentrates, their categories depending on the type of chemicals used to extract the active ingredients from the plant.

Although these concentrates are already becoming more common among young individuals, traditional dry, ground herbs are still widely used because of their affordable price and availability.

It is important to know that regardless of its form, cannabis is psychoactive, meaning that it alters the brain functioning or psychological state of users, albeit in different ways. The most potent chemical as we know is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), which gives you those “highs.” The effects per person may vary depending on factors such as the percentage of THC in the cannabis or the person’s natural tendency to react to the said compound. Ordinary marijuana may contain about 3 percent THC, while concentrates may contain up to about 40 percent.

But this psychoactive chemical is not alone. Research has shown that marijuana contains up to about 400 cannabinoids, and many of them promise health benefits. And it is for this very reason that advocates push for the legalization of this drug.


The Most Common Terms Used to Refer to Marijuana

As a parent, it is important that you know these terms just in case you overhear your child speak of these words with his or her friends at school, for example, or even at home. Once your teenager uses the terms budder or hash this should already raise a red flag as these forms of drugs have the highest concentrations of THC.

We’ve gathered the most common slang words for cannabis. Get yourself familiar with these too to keep you in the loop of your children’s patterns of communication within his social circle.

Weed, ganja, bud, grass, mary jane, kif, dope, blunt, herb, dank, reefer, Aunt Mary.

Also, get to know the types of tools for smoking or vaporizing cannabis. Here are the most commonly used:

Bong

A bong is a specialized device or a pipe used for smoking marijuana, tobacco and other herbs. But in this context, the bong is mostly used for cannabis. This cylindrical device contains water at the bottom half section, where smoke coming from the herbs bubbles up and gets filtered by the water as it rises to the upper chamber, ready to reach the mouthpiece at the top for inhalation.

Bongs may come in ceramic, clay, plastic tubing, glass or PVC materials. Even without these types of materials, one can easily improvise his or her own bong by using a bottle of coke and some common plastic tubing.

Some slang words for bong are water pipe, billy, bing and moof.

Joint

Simply put, a joint is a rolled marijuana cigarette. This is perhaps the easiest way to take those hits from pot because all you need is a piece of paper and some dry herbs to roll them into a joint for smoking. Many adolescents and young adults are quick to improvise joints because of its ease of use and the materials needed to make one are readily available. Even a piece of newspaper is good enough to roll joints.

Vape

If you hear someone say vape or vaping, then most probably he or she is using a vaporizer. This device has become more popular because it promises to prevent marijuana herbs from burning while you enjoy the vapors containing THC and all the other active ingredients. Instead of using fire to produce smoke from pot, vaporizers use a heating element to either heat up the air that goes through the materials or directly heat them using the conduction principle. If using marijuana or THC is not an issue, then vaporizers can be a very promising tool, being good alternatives to joints because vaporizers produce no smoke and just vapors instead.

Blunt

Some creative stoners go further by slicing a cigarette and replacing some of the tobacco with cannabis. The end product is what we call a blunt. And when one smokes it together with drinking 40 ounces of malt liquor, you get what we call the B-40. What’s dangerous for many adolescents and young adults is that what we normally call as “blunt” may no longer contain just tobacco or marijuana. Others mix it with cocaine to produce the most potent effects. Although marijuana might still give you some great health benefits, cocaine, on the other hand, can just be just too dangerous. So watch out for terms like happy sticks, love boat, tical or wicky sticks.

THC Infused Treats

Another tricky issue that parents need to consider is the growing number of cannabis-infused food especially in states where recreational marijuana is already legal. Previously, we’ve released a Halloween article that highlights the possibility that trick-or-treaters might encounter pot infused sweets.

Just to make sure that you do not run into these treats, ask any sales staff in your regular grocery store which ones are for your kids and which ones are specially concocted for stoners. You may even go further by checking whether your child’s school implements strict policies on bringing in any weed-infused food within the school campus. There was a case where a student was rushed to the emergency room after he took some pot-laced brownies passed around by another student, not knowing that it contained pot.

In Washington, THC-infused food is not yet legal, pending the recommendations of the board that such new category of food products must undergo rigorous testing before approval. But it is a different case in Colorado, where brownies and cookies look nothing more than ordinary. Even at closer inspection, you’d find it hard to detect which candy is laced with the drug and which one is safe for your kids.

If you are using pot, make sure you place your weed out of your children’s reach inside your home. Or, better yet do your pot sessions with your friends outside your home just to avoid evoking your child’s curiosity. The good news is that you are the most significant role model a child can look up to as he or she learns and grows.

Signs of Cannabis Use

So, what actually happens when one smokes, vaporizes or eats marijuana? At this point, we already know that different individuals exhibit different levels of sensitivity and tolerance to the drug. But here are the most common effects:

More often, consuming cannabis increases blood pressure and heart rate. It also results in poor sense of balance, loss of coordination and delayed response to outside stimulus.

Just in case your child accidentally ingests marijuana without your knowledge, look for telltale signs of dizziness, such as having some trouble walking, being too sluggish or sleepy, or, on the other extreme, being too giggly. The chemical found in marijuana also dilates blood vessels in the eyes, making the eyes look more reddish than normal.

It is important to note that looking for some signs in younger children is easier than in adolescent or young adults. Physical symptoms among older individuals may include signs of fatigue, carelessness and even hostility.

In addition, you should also look beyond mere physical symptoms. Are your child’s social relationships with family members or friends turning downhill? Has your child been performing too poorly at school? Or, has he or she completely lost interest in otherwise normally exciting activities such a sports or other physical or outdoor routines? Also, any changes in sleeping habits might be indicative of marijuana use. Of course, these physical symptoms or changes in behavior are not exclusively associated with the use of cannabis among adolescents or young adults. So, make sure you talk to your kids to check for the right clues.

Because THC is fat soluble, it is immediately absorbed in the fatty tissues of the body and can stay detected by standard drug tests for days after the person last used cannabis. But for heavy or chronic users, THC can stay detected for several weeks.

Why Your Kids Would Use Marijuana

While there are many reasons why young children or adolescents use marijuana, the most common are curiosity and peer pressure. In addition, cigarette smokers and alcohol drinkers are more likely to experiment with cannabis at one point. Also, family members who use drugs, cigarette, or alcohol are more likely to influence other members. It is because brothers, sisters, grandparents and parents act as role models within the family.

On the other hand, young individuals who start using marijuana or other drugs start using them not because they’ve found role models within their home, but because of defiance. While for others, boredom, depression and anger are mere reasons for cannabis use. And these psychological conditions are usually associated with adolescents or children who experience the challenges of growing up.

Then on the extreme side are people who were or are currently physically or sexually abused, turning to drugs as part of coping mechanism.

The dangers of leaving your children who may have already started using pot unchecked is that their habit of smoking weed may more likely lead to the use of dangerous drugs such as cocaine or meth. Studies have shown on that individuals who have already been using weed are many times more likely to “upgrade” their experience by experimenting on other drugs. While we already know the several health benefits of cannabis, the use of cocaine or methamphetamine could lead to serious physical, social and psychological consequences. Thus, we do not support the use of such drugs.

Marijuana Use And Pregnancy

For pregnant women, the use of cannabis is not advisable because previous studies linked the drug to early termination of pregnancy. Other studies also suggest remarkable characteristics unique to babies born from mothers using marijuana. Newborn babies have lower body weight and are shorter and have smaller head sizes. On the extreme side are babies who manifest symptoms of fetal alcohol syndrome and other nervous system problems.  Studies have also discovered that long-term use of cannabis significantly lowers the IQ level of adolescent users, but the same association does not hold true among adults. However, the scientific community calls for more research to find out whether such effects can be reversed or are permanent.

Another very important question among mothers is the use of pot while breastfeeding. This is a serious matter of concern because there have been research studies suggesting that there is higher concentration of THC in breast milk as compared to that found in blood. Obviously, THC will definitely have significant effects on the child and already, one study has shown that a baby exposed to THC found in the mother’s milk will most likely have delayed or impaired motor development.

Marijuana and The Brain

Despite its well-known and newly discovered health benefits, marijuana is still seen by many experts as detrimental to one’s brain functioning especially among adolescents. Some researchers suggest a strong link between smoking pot and impaired perception, judgment, motor skills and short-term memory. THC effects short term memory by interacting with nerve cells located in the brain responsible for learning. Thus, a chronic user of pot would sometimes experience lapses and would find it difficult to remember events that have happened earlier.

Ingestion of marijuana also results in subtle changes in the brain that are similar to that of individuals who use cocaine, alcohol or heroin. So, these changes might probably result in the user looking for drugs that are more potent than cannabis, those that provide more pleasure and stimulate the brain’s reward center even more.

Another study — this time on rats — showed some problems on learning and memory tasks for rats exposed to THC. However, no such experiments have been conducted on humans of course because of ethical reasons. At this point, we are just beginning to understand the inner workings of the brain and how chemicals such as THC and other drugs interact with the cells in the central nervous system.

Marijuana and Mental Illness

At this point, you might ask whether the drug could lead to mental illness. Well, the answer may not come so easy as it may seem. While many experts claim that there is no significant association between marijuana and susceptibility to mental illnesses, researchers in Sweden have observed that long-term use of cannabis could more likely result in increased predisposition to schizophrenia. On a lighter note, the more subtle effects are mild depression, anxiety and some personality changes.

But perhaps the most sustained or recurring effects of long-term marijuana use is diminished level of motivation among users. In time, individuals become apathetic, becoming less and less caring about their social circles or even family members. Economically, they eventually begin to feel the pain of financial loss just because of their lack of desire to work or to manage their means of living. Their lack of interest will eventually show in their work performance or the grades they get at school. So, for adults, their businesses or carrier would likely suffer in the long run.

Thus, if you are concerned about the welfare of your child, you might want to start intervening early, right when you discover anything irregular about your child’s activities that might lead to more problems, which might be a signal of underlying association with marijuana.

We’re not saying that marijuana is all that bad. In fact we at Smokazon.com support its use especially because of its many health benefits. The key to living the ultra life is to create the perfect balance of or maximizing the benefits you get from pot, but at the same time, making sure that all the other aspects of your life remain in constant check. We’ve mentioned a while back about individuals who end up looking for more potent drugs such as heroin or methamphetamine, only to end up being too dependent or addicted. Hence, always keep your routines or cannabis use in moderation all the time.

Is Marijuana Addictive?

All parent take heed: Yes it is, but not as much as the other more potent drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and alcohol. Also, weed is not as debilitating as the rest of the drugs are, and that one can still enjoy the therapeutic benefits of pot while preventing the onset of addiction.

The key to a healthy lifestyle with marijuana is in moderation and in control of the drug. Others have become too dependent on it because at one point, they have suffered physical pain and other uncomfortable symptoms of underlying conditions, and they see marijuana as the best alternative to conventional treatments that usually have worse side effects. On the other hand, many others simply use marijuana for recreational purposes.

The problem with heavy use of cannabis specially in the long run are the painful withdrawal symptoms of restlessness, anxiety, sleeplessness and weight loss, among many others. If your teenager already exhibits symptoms of antisocial behavior or depressive symptoms, make sure that he or she does not resort to marijuana use because THC has been known to exacerbate these symptoms. If left unchecked, these young individuals will more likely search for more dangerous drugs, as what we have mentioned earlier. And we would not want that to happen because treatment or prevention at a later stage would be much more difficult.

While tolerance or dependence to cannabis is a reality, there have been no established medications to help users during the withdrawal stage from weed use. One reason might be that marijuana does not pose so much of a health risk as compared to the deadly drugs such as heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine.

For now, the only existing treatment or withdrawal methods are those applied for individuals that use other forms of dangerous drugs. These treatments may include detoxification, attendance in group sessions, and cognitive behavioral therapies. But it is important to know that many cannabis users do not resort to rehabilitation because of the herb’s less serious effects. In fact, as what we’ve mentioned earlier, weed, when used moderately, may offer you some of the most surprisingly unexpected medical benefits such as pain alleviation and in the treatment of cancer, migraine, epileptic seizures and many others.

But if there is one effective treatment for marijuana dependence, that would be support therapy coming from the family social circles and groups.

The Uses of Marijuana in the Field of Medicine

Perhaps unfairly plotted in medical history, marijuana had been categorized by the 1970 U.S. law as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. In other words, this drug, when smoked, has no established medical use and is harmful as other prescription drugs. But as we know, all that is starting to change given the mounting amount of evidence showing that marijuana has been reported to be curative or at least therapeutic in a number of physical conditions, particularly cancer and other fatal forms of physical condition, including multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s and epileptic seizures.

To avoid any misinformation, take note that THC is just one of the hundreds of cannabinoids found in pot. While THC is a psychoactive drug, the one that gives you that pleasure or that “high,” the rest of the cannabinoids have their own special properties that scientists have discovered to be curative or at least therapeutic in the treatment of many physical conditions. In fact, THC alone helps alleviate symptoms of nausea and vomiting to. THC pills can be taken to help an individual cope with these symptoms. In addition, THC is also given to people who are underweight or for those who have AIDS to maintain their body weight.

The Safest Way to Ingest Marijuana

Granted, using marijuana among individuals below age 21 is illegal even in Colorado and Washington, but as a grown up adult and a parent who’s into using pot, being responsible does not only mean keeping your child away from these drugs, but also using weed in a healthier way. So how do you reap the pleasures of using pot while maintaining or maximizing the health benefits of the herb?

The answer is avoiding burning weed, and instead using a vaporizer to inhale the potent flavors of THC and other cannabinoids. Unlike smoking pot, vaporizing your herbs will not produce the harmful chemicals otherwise present when burning plant materials.

Check out some of the best vaporizer pens here Then there are the THC infused treats such as brownies, cookies and vegetable salads. Although they offer the same medical benefits, their effects take longer to manifest because the digestive system needs to breakdown the herb materials first before THC gets absorbed into the bloodstream.

Remember: Recreational Marijuana Use has Age Restrictions.

Marijuana can be harmful to children and adolescents, posing risk to their mental and motor development when used during the developmental stage in life. So there is good reason why the government also applies age restrictions for using pot. Even when you live in Colorado or Washington (where recreational pot is legal) you can still be charged for felony if you pass on marijuana to your kids below 21 years old.

Keeping Your Child Safe

As a parent, you can only do so much when it comes to preventing your child from trying out cannabis or other drugs. But being open to your children and being ready to listen to them would greatly help open up a good communication channel between you and your child. Then you will have great opportunities to guide your child with all the information on what he or she needs to know about cannabis.

But on the brighter side, there is good reason why Colorado and Washington legalized recreational marijuana in the first place. Majority of its people haven’t seen how pot can be so beneficial for as long as it is used without abuse. So, in the future, your children might also benefit from marijuana, given that you take all the precautionary measures to ensure that your children do not abuse pot in any way. Also make sure that they do not progress into trying out more dangerous drugs. After all, even if recreational marijuana is already legal in Colorado and Washington states, people below 21 years old are not legally allowed to use the drug.

If you really want to keep your children away from any types of drugs, then get involved into their daily routine such school works, recreation and other activities inside and outside your home — of course without getting too intrusive.

Get to know their friends and also make sure that their social circle does not pose any potential exposure to drugs. Remember that many children resort to using drugs because of the lack of attention and care by their guardians or parents. While others the experience inherent depression, anxiety and other psychological disorders and that they believe that these drugs would help them emotionally, or would help them cope with the pressure of growing up. So, be ready to embrace your children’s ideas and guide them just in case you notice any cues that would indicate underlying drug use.

The Future of Marijuana Use

At the federal level, marijuana is still an illegal drug despite its already legal status in Colorado and Washington (and now in Washington D.C., Oregon and Alaska). Such moves by the states to legalize recreational marijuana is not surprising given the fact that cannabis is the most widely used drug in the country. That there is a growing call to legalize recreational marijuana is indicative that a larger part of the population is already leaning towards unprejudiced use of cannabis.

Soon, we’ll find ourselves living in a country emancipated from the walls of ignorance that have kept us from discovering the many health benefits of cannabis.

But, as a parent, be the best role model your child could ever look up to. This gives a whole new meaning to why we have begun to embrace this once reviled drug into our own lives.

Written by Donald Evans