Tales from The Talk: Talking to Family about Marijuana

“Noah,” a 40-something tech professional and long-time cannabis user, recalls a time driving alone down Interstate-405 with his teenage daughter.

“Dad,” his daughter says. “Mom says I should try pot.”

“What?” he asks, stalling for time, trying to construct a strategy on the fly.

“Yeah, she says I should try it somewhere safe, and with good friends,” his daughter says.

Noah calms a bit, recognizing his wife’s underlying logic.

“Well,” Noah says in his best fatherly tone. “She doesn’t want you to try it, but she knows you probably will, so she wants you to do it safely. … and I agree.”

He explains that it’s a “set and setting” drug, which means your mind and physical setting matter when doing it, he says.

“So, doing it somewhere safe, with good friends, is really important,” he says.

And then she asks: “Did you ever try it?”

Noah, who owns and hides his own Volcano Vaporizer in the corner of his spacious home in Burbank, California, struggles to maintain his Ford F-150.

“Yeah,” he pauses. “A long time ago.”

The lie brings pangs of shame, wafting over him.

“Listen,” he begins, “I don’t have a problem with marijuana, but people have no idea how strong it is today. If I give you a sip of a vodka and tonic, it will have zero effect on you, but if I give you a hit of pot, you will definitely feel it.”

Noah feels pretty good about that bit of on-the-fly parenting, mitigating for a bit the realization that his daughter’s innocence is under siege. Soon, he imagines, she’ll be smoking pot in an out of state college, hanging out in a drum circle with a dirty, shirtless, dreadlocked boy named Tyler, or a tatted up graffiti artist in art class who’s convincing her to pose naked for him to draw…

“Dad,” Noah’s daughter says with that familiar, annoyed, preteen tone. “You don’t hit pot; you hit a bong.”

So, here sits Noah, a grizzled pot smoker from the ’80s, being instructed on the correct way to do it by his canna-virgin daughter, an alternate universe he had yet to imagine.

“Ah, OK,” he says, trying not to laugh.

Noah, and so many of his peers who’ve smoked in the shadows for decades, find themselves faced with this question in an interesting time, with medical marijuana legal in numerous states and Washington DC, and recreational legalization on the near horizon. How to talk to your kids about pot? And, in many cases, how to talk to your aging parents about pot, too?

Kevin Williamson, 52, a TV cameraman and trailer editor, has had a long and open relationship with pot. He’s actually writing a memoir on the subject, “Wake and Bake: A Life Not Wasted.”

He can go on and on about the merits of the plant, from creativity enhancement to pain and anxiety relief. So when he had kids, he never blinked.

He smoked openly in front of them their entire lives, and that’s had two interesting effects: One, neither of his kids use, probably since it can’t possibly be cool if Dad is doing it; and two, they encourage him to use, since they clearly like him better after his bong hit.

This is a sentiment shared by Williamson’s old college buddies, who thought him to be a bit of an angry Neanderthal back at Wesleyan until he got high.

“Absurdity can seem normal when I’m stoned,” Williamson says, and it’s the absurdity of life that can make a bright, aware, well-intentioned man like Williamson a little crazy.

If you’re of child-bearing age or older, and you support marijuana and its legalization, chances are you will deal with this issue at some point. Every pot smoking 20-something has mulled it over at some point.

But the stigma is lifting, making it easier and easier to talk openly about cannabis and its use.

We certainly want to protect our children. There is merit to the argument that a teenager’s brain is still developing and serious pot use might have an adverse effect on them. But serious over-use of anything, from pot and alcohol to Oreos and french fries, not to mention Advil, Xanax and the rest, can be damaging to any teen or adult.

Clearly, the common denominator between these two stories is that kids are smarter and clearer than we might think, and pot is slowly weaving itself into the fabric of modern American culture, so you might as well talk to your kids about what you know now, clearly and comfortably, making sure they’re not getting bad information or putting themselves in harm’s way.

In contrast to talking to children, “Anna” is 48 years old and wants to get her 75-year-old mother off of her nightly wine-and-sedative routine, which is designed to help her sleep. Anna brought her mother a cannabis brownie, one gram of OG indica and a small pipe, gently lecturing her on the evils of pharmaceuticals and alcohol.

Her mother, who came of age in the 1950s, with “Refer Madness” hysteria preceding the high-profile drug use and subsequent drug-related deaths of several iconic rocks stars in the ’60s and ’70s, was less hesitant then Anna had feared.

“OK, I’ll try it,” said her mom, who had always prided herself on a high hip quotient.

The next day, Anna got a call from Mom.

“Gee, Honey, that stuff knocked me right out,” she said. “I never even made it to Colbert.”

“Really, that’s wonderful,” Anna said. “Did you eat the brownie, or smoke the pot?”

“I took a very small puff of the pot,” Anna’s mom said. “Whoo! Very strong, that stuff.”

“Excellent, Mom, I’m so happy to hear that. No more pills and wine.”

“Oh no, I still took those,” her mom said.

Progress is slow sometimes, but we’ll get there.

And remember: You don’t hit pot; you hit a bong.