Home Health How Do Parents With Medical Cards Explain It to Their Kids?

How Do Parents With Medical Cards Explain It to Their Kids?


The message from parents to kids has been the same for decades. Recreational drugs are bad; don’t use them. But when it comes to cannabis, the narrative and the social mores have changed a lot. At the time of writing, twenty-six (26) states have legalized medical cannabis programs for patients.

If you are an adult with a chronic disease and debilitating symptoms, medical cannabis may have restored your quality of life. Different types of medicinal cannabis products have made symptoms bearable for patients. It allowed patients to return to daily life activities, including self-care, employment, exercise, and more.

Now that you have become a registered patient in a state medical marijuana program, what do you tell your children? The line is not blurred with regards to cannabis use by minors. It is still illegal. And you do not want to appear to be endorsing it for recreational purposes.

Among some of the more awkward and difficult talks we have with our children, medical marijuana may top the list. As a parent, how do you educate your children about the difference between recreational and medicinal drug use? Will you discreetly use medical cannabis out of sight when your children are home and hide it from them?

Psychologists have some recommendations for parents who are struggling with the question: “Do I tell my child I use medical cannabis or not?”. Here are some suggestions based on the age and maturity of your child.

Recommendation for Children Under Ten Years of Age

One of the things that some parents have learned the hard way is how eager children are to share their home life at school. So, when a teacher contacts you concerned because your child said that you use cannabis, it’s going to be a long conversation.

First of all, you may not want everyone to know you have your medical card. Some people are extremely private about it. A stigma against people who use cannabis still exists. Not to mention the fact that your employer may have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for employees with medical cards. 

Employers may not endorse the use of medical cannabis and conduct regular drug screenings. Or, they may understand the medicinal use of cannabis and trust that employees remain discreet about it. While cannabis legalization continues to expand at the state level, labor laws may provide protections in the future. But for now, you probably don’t want every parent (or co-worker) knowing you have a medical card.

Another legal complication can happen to divorced parents with split custody. While the state you live in may have legalized medical marijuana, federally, cannabis is still an illicit and illegal substance. If the non-custodial parent deems that your use of cannabis impacts the safety of your child or children, it can be argued in family court. State laws have few if any family law provisions regarding custody to parents who have a medical card. It can create a legal complication regarding the custody of your children.

Talking Personal Use Safety and Legal Liability with Teens

In a household with teenagers, it could be hard, if not impossible, to hide medical cannabis. It is something most parents don’t want to think about. Nonetheless, it is true. If you smoke a bowl or light a pre-roll, chances are your teen will be able to smell the cannabis. And know exactly what it is (even without a visual).

Usually, by the age of fourteen years or sooner, teens have a basic understanding of cannabis. They see it on TV, talk about it with their friends, and may have seen cannabis used by older cousins or siblings. An honest conversation about what it takes to get a medical card is a good first step. Help your teen understand how medical cannabis helps you manage health symptoms.

It is also important to talk about the legal ramifications of recreational cannabis use by minors. Take a few minutes and look up the fines, charges, and juvenile sentencing examples with your teen. Will they be scared? Probably. But having an informed and educated teen is better than having your son or daughter get into trouble with the law. Make them aware of the consequences and personal safety issues.

Storing Your Medical Cannabis Safely When There Are Minors In the Home

When children are under the age of ten, it is easy to be discreet about medical cannabis in your home. Store your cannabis in a private place, like a garage or your bedroom. They won’t know how it smells. They are unlikely to go looking for it in the home. And if your pre-teens find cannabis, they are unlikely to know what to do with it.

As a medical cardholder and legal guardian, you have an obligation to keep your medical cannabis supplies stored securely. While there has never been a case of overdose (where cannabis was the sole drug used), edibles can be easily confused with candy gummies or treats.

A stash box is a great solution for parents. A high-quality stash box can be locked and childproof. It also gives you a method of organizing your paraphernalia and supplies (cones, screens, papers, etc.). That way, nothing will be left out in the open and accessible to minors.

Many parenting experts agree that keeping your stash box discreet and hidden is the best way to go. Even if your child suspects what is inside, they may not be brave enough to try to open it. But their friends may encourage it. It is easier to keep your stash and supplies on the down-low to avoid problems.

Disclosing Medical Cannabis to Adult Children

If you are a senior with adult children, you probably thought the days of having ‘one of those talks’ were long over. But adult children can be just as surprised (and sometimes concerned) when their parents use cannabis—either adult-use or medical marijuana.

Maybe there was a time or two when you caught your kids as teens with marijuana. Like a good parent (and to discourage illegal activities), you probably disciplined them for it. So you can understand the irony that adult children would feel, finding out mom, dad, or even Grandma is a fan of pre-rolls or edibles.

After they get past the ‘wow, my mom smokes weed’ stage, share honestly with them about your symptoms. How has medical cannabis helped you?  What difference has it made in managing chronic pain, inflammation, appetite loss, or headaches? Your grown-up children will want to understand why you are taking this approach to symptom management. Also, take the time to tell them why and when you use medical cannabis. They are likely to worry about your ability to drive. So, assure them that you are acting safely and responsibly.

Isn’t that a role reversal? Informing your adult children about your medical cannabis use can also help them support you in a health emergency. If you are a senior, have a list of your prescription medications on the fridge if you need urgent care. And disclose your therapeutic use of cannabis on that list. Cannabis can be contraindicated with certain types of medication, and it can be life-saving information your family should be able to access if they need to.

As medical cannabis programs continue to expand, education about responsible therapeutic use is important. The best model of responsible use for a child is their parent. Take the time to educate them (as age-appropriate) to help them make safe (and legal) choices about cannabis now and in the future. 




Paul Petersen