A reader writes:
As a kid, I discovered at a young-ish age that my parents smoked pot. They never did it in front of me, but curious child that I was, I snooped around and found out on my own. I was devastated because, as an 8-year-old kid, all the propaganda told me that pot was akin to murder ("I learned it by watching YOU!"). It was awful for me to find out that my parents were criminals!
As I got older into my teenage years, I got into the weed a bit too; but I still held this grudge against my parents. My mindset was that I was SUPPOSED to do it, I was a rebellious teenager. They should have grown out of it long ago.
Funny thing is, they weren't criminals. They were the most loving, caring, adoring parents I ever could have asked for. They sacrificed a lot to give me and my brother private educations through high school. He and I never could have asked for anything more. Now that I'm my own fully-functional adult with a great job, a wonderful boyfriend, and a hell of a lot of stability, I look back and wish that I didn't spend my childhood thinking these things about my parents. I'm old enough to know now that pot ? criminal loserdom. I hope that one day, the stigma is lifted so it can just be "something that grownups do" and kids will accept that as a fine answer.
I grew up in a house where my Dad smoked pot in front of me on an almost daily basis. When I was little I didn’t really think to question what he was smoking (he was a cigarette smoker too, and had the occasional cigar). One day when I was in sixth grade, he was going to work late and was going to drop me off at school. Before we left he called me over and explained to me that stuff he was smoking wasn’t always cigarettes, it was marijuana.
I remember being a little shocked at the time thinking, "Wow, my dad smokes pot." He had a talk with me about how I was getting older now and that even though I would come across this stuff sooner or later, I wasn’t old enough to make a responsible decision as to whether I would choose to smoke pot (obviously he was right; I was only 11 at the time). He just told me to wait until I got out of high school to try it (as Chef says, “There’s a time and place for everything and it’s college”).
Of course I had many many opportunities growing up to smoke pot if I really wanted to. I could have taken a some of my Dad’s and he probably wouldn’t have known any better. But I respected his wishes and waited until I got into college. I’ve smoked pot about a dozen times or so and to be honest I did enjoy it. But I haven’t smoked at all since I graduated from college in 2004.
I’ll always appreciate that my Dad treated me as an adult when it came to the subject of pot. He didn’t try to hide it from me. He wasn’t a hypocrite like so many today who live by the motto, "Do as I say, not as I do."
My teenage kids understand that I have smoked grass, and that the drug was ubiquitous when I was growing up, so pretty much unavoidable. I’ve explained to them that early on I realized that I would not excel in school if I smoked more than once or twice a month. I don’t talk about current use, because I think this is something that should be kept private, especially considering the current legal situation and existing social morays. I don’t think this makes me a hypocrite. For the most part, I’m very honest with my kids, and I don’t think there is a parent on the planet that is completely open about everything they might have done in the past.
I haven't played the game of telling my kids that drugs are bad. Like almost everyone in my generation (I'm 53) I have a certain amount of experience with drugs. When my daughters were getting close to the age when they would come into contact with drugs, I shared my experiences honestly and told them that I hoped that they would make sensible, safe decisions. I didn't tell them to abstain, I told them to be careful. I also asked them to be open with me and keep me informed, which for the most part they did. That enabled me to advise them about how to stay safe.
Whether or not you feel like you can safely come out of this particular closet, you should at least be honest with your kids. If we can't manage that, we'll never win this battle and our kids will end up stuck in the same closet. Incidentally, almost all of my friends are in the closet. I'm not, but only because I started to have a powerful negative psychic reaction to marijuana in my 40s, sort of like the stoned paranoia thing, which ruins it for me. I miss it.
I'm 51. I smoked pot several times a week from the time I was sixteen until I was about 30. I quit for about 10 years when my kids were young and started smoking again about 10 years ago. I've never smoked a cigarette in my life and rarely drink. My kids are now in college and I smoke more frequently now that they are not home.
I have told both of them that I've "inhaled" and they in turn have told me they have, too. We have not had a family inhalation. Both of my daughters asked me if their mother, whom I am happily married to for 25 years, has also smoked. I told them that if they really want to know they should ask her. While I'm increasingly out of the cannabis closet, I'm not going to out anybody else.
It is strange for me to write this, but I'm really a model citizen. I work productively at the small business I started 8 years ago (I was high when I wrote the business plan), pay taxes, support my children, contribute to charity, and obey the law. I haven't had so much as a traffic ticket in 15 years. I believe very strongly in the rule of law, but the pot laws in America are so out of touch with reality that I simply ignore them.