Resources to help shape age-appropriate conversations around cannabis

In 2017, an estimated 1.2 million youths aged 12 to 17 tried cannabis for the first time, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). And about half of youths aged in the same age range said it would be easy to get cannabis if they wanted some. Although this information is several years old, it still brings the importance of cannabis use amongst kids to the forefront of parent discussions. Whether your children fall in those ages or are much younger and starting to notice cannabis use (in their home or otherwise), talking to children about cannabis in a factual but also considerate way is important.  

Parents are their children’s first (and most important) teachers. They teach them everything from basic life skills to how to be moral humans and productive members of society. They also talk with them about the not-so-comfortable topics, whether that be sex, violence, world news, politics, or substance use, to which cannabis is no exception. If parents don’t talk with their kids about cannabis, someone else likely will, and that someone may not give them the correct information. 

Several factors affect how to talk with your child about cannabis, particularly where you live and what laws apply. It’s important to consider if you or someone you live with is a medical marijuana patient and whether your children see cannabis being consumed. 

Jessie Gill is a registered nurse and cannabis nurse with a background in holistic health and hospice. She’s also a mother of two. For Gill, grouping cannabis in with opioids during school lessons or drug education programs (because of its status as a Schedule I drug) makes the discussions even more important. 

“Kids are told these are equal dangers,” she says. “Adolescents quickly realize the dangers and risks of cannabis have been heavily exaggerated or falsified. This makes some assume the risks of opiates and other illicit substances may have been exaggerated as well. But we know opiates are dramatically more dangerous than cannabis, and it’s extremely important we teach kids this distinction. Schools aren’t doing it, so if we don’t tell our kids the truth about cannabis, who will?” 

So, how do parents talk with kids about cannabis? There is no easy answer, but we share some basic broken down by age group. This is because children at different ages will process the information differently. 

For all age groups, consider approaching the topic just as you would any other serious subject that requires more attention, and provide validated research and resources. And in all cases, your actions also illustrate responsibility.

Children ages 0-6

For toddlers and young children, making the conversation relevant is key. Treat the topic just as you would if your child is asking about a glass of wine, a cup of coffee, or even a household cleaner you would securely keep out of reach. 

If cannabis is used for medicinal reasons, treating it and talking about it the same way you would a bottle of prescription pills is appropriate. 

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Former Portland, Oregon, City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who served on the City Council from January 2009 to December 2020, is also a mom and, when still on the Council, gave some parenting insight about cannabis. When it comes to talking about dispensaries or cannabis businesses, Fritz says she would play the “grown-ups only” card, meaning that she explains it as something that only adults can use. 

“There are stores that sell things that only grown-ups are allowed to buy, because they are not good for growing bodies,” she says. “Cannabis, alcohol, and cigarettes are some of those things that are for grown-ups. That shop sells cannabis. Some people call it marijuana, but that’s not a good word. It comes from a plant. In our family, we know cannabis can help people who are sick, and it makes people who aren’t sick feel better too.”

Children ages 7-12

This point in your child’s life presents a good opportunity to establish a trusting, open relationship, which is why it might be the most important time to start discussing cannabis if you haven’t already. 

“When you introduce the conversation at a young age, not only are you inoculating your kids against prohibitionist propaganda but you’re also normalizing something that’s been wrongfully stigmatized for too long,” says Jenn Lauder, co-founder of, a pot and parenting platform. “There’s less mystique when cannabis is openly discussed, less allure when kids know it’s something their parents use responsibly. You’re also setting up an evolving conversation that will hopefully continue into your children’s early adulthood. They’ll know they can trust you with their questions or confide in you when they’re considering trying cannabis themselves.” 

Jessica Gonzalez, a cannabis advocate and cannabis influencer under the account Mommy Jane’s Neighborhood, is a mother of two who decided to embark on creating a social media community dedicated to honoring the relationship between cannabis medicine, healing, and motherhood. Gonzalez believes books are a great way to talk about this topic with children and recommends It’s Just a Plant by Ricardo Cortés.

“Another way to do so is by showing anecdotal videos of children and adults being healed by the plant,” she says, noting that it only took a few videos of Charlotte Figi battling Dravet syndrome with cannabis to make her children “believers and tiny advocates” for cannabis. “Most parents will know which methods will work best when they have discussions with their children, but you can do a combination of a few ways: books, shows, discussions. Remember, it’s just a plant.” 

Children age 13+

As our children become teens and grow into young adults, the dialogue about cannabis should be more open and frequent, especially in light of changing cannabis policy and the emerging cannabis industry. 

With resources and tools, teens and young adults can gain knowledge and make their own health decisions objectively. To assist parents, the government in Canada (where cannabis is legalized at the national level) through Drug Free Kids Canada, Health Canada, and the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction has created the Cannabis Talk Kit. The brochure is designed as a resource to provide parents with information about cannabis along with some effective conversation tools for productive discussions with teens about cannabis and other substance use.

Drawing on her research and experience, Lauder says: “My favorite resources foreground harm reduction rather than abstinence education. Sure, I’d like my kid to wait until she’s a well-adjusted adult in her 20s with a fully developed brain, a promising career, and meaningful relationships before trying cannabis. But more than that, I’d like her to be equipped with the information she needs to stay as safe as possible in the meantime.” 

Lauder recommends visiting the website for the Drug Policy Alliance,, and

Gill has found it helpful to teach about cannabis in a similar way that we teach children about alcohol and other medications. Older kids are able to understand more of the social justice issues that permeate laws. 

“For parents who are open cannabis users, it is extremely important for them to prepare their children for the stigma they’ll face in school,” Gill says. “Eventually there will be a teacher who says bad things about cannabis users; kids need to expect that. A good way to start the conversation with older kids is a simple, ‘What do you know about cannabis?’” 

The hardest part might be starting the conversation. Parenting has a lot of challenges, but this topic does not have to be one. Stay open and responsive with your children and continue to provide them with facts about the plant.