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By Pepper Sloan
As a parent in 2018, it’s difficult to stay rational. The constant bombardment of horror and fear via the internet and television makes being a mother downright terrifying at times. Even in her twenties, I can’t help but to worry about my daughter. Thankfully, my husband offers up quick reminders that this young person was not raised to buy into whatever is being sold, regardless of who is doing the selling. She was taught to get the facts and think for herself, and I have little doubt her decisions will always be informed ones.
My household is a cannabis friendly one. The reasons and capacity in which I use it have not been a secret to my child, nor to anyone else. My husband does not use cannabis and his reasons have never been a secret to anyone, either. Because my family has lived in legal cannabis states for the past seven years, we’ve had the luxury of being open about our use or lack thereof. In states where cannabis legislation has caught up with science, we have the unique ability to educate our young people about illicit drugs on our own terms. We are firm believers in the “secrets make you sick” ideology in our home and because of this we champion an open door communication policy. Tragically though for many families around the country secrets are a necessary part of life.
Even in states where cannabis is legal some parents find themselves forced to lie to their children about their use and support for cannabis due to continued social stigmas while those in cannabis restricted states are forced to use a system of silence. With many of my family and friends still residing in the Bible Belt, I’m often reminded of how risky a policy of truth can be, resulting in a potential loss their position in the community and their professional status. As a child of the eighties, I have vivid memories of the Just Say No campaign and the anti-drug assemblies that followed it’s inception. Prior to Nancy Reagan’s interest, most young people received their drug education from their friends - as most of our parents did. Stating the “Just Say No” campaign was an epic failure is a massive understatement. In fact, many of those anti-drug commercials and slogans have become pop culture legend. These programs don’t work, and we need only to think back to Tipper Gore and the Parents Music Resource Center with their failed attempt at detering sales of “offensive” music by labeling these songs with Parental Advisory labels for a reminder. This undertaking resulted in nothing more than a rise in record sales for the artists named on the organization's “Filthy Fifteen,” which served more as a shopping list than a deterrent.
Studies have shown how programs like D.A.R.E. inadvertently provide young people with a how-to manual for drug use. Professor of Psychiatry and founder of the Drug Dependence Unit at Yale University, Herbert D. Kleber told the San Jose Mercury News, “Our feeling was, after looking at the prevention movement, we were not having enough of an impact. There was a marked rise in drug use.” This information is not news to educators and legislators. In 2000, The New York Times reported that the Department of Education would no longer fund the D.A.R.E. program from its office of Safe and Drug-free Schools. This decision was made because the Department of Education did not consider the claims made by D.A.R.E. to be scientifically accurate.
Sadly not much has changed. Even though D.A.R.E. claims to have removed cannabis from it’s list of Schedule 1 illicit drugs, their website tells a much different story. Much of the information has been provided by a group called SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana.) This organization is one of the most vocal opposers to the cannabis movement, and they are notorious for utilizing junk science and false claims to make their point. Under a section called “Scientific Facts,” SAM’s website states, “Science has proven – and all major scientific and medical organizations agree – that marijuana is both addictive and harmful to the human brain, especially when used as an adolescent. One in every six 16 year-olds (and one in every eleven adults) who try marijuana will become addicted to it.” As someone avidly interested in the science of cannabis, I had trouble finding scientific journals to back up much of SAM’s claims. Upon checking their sources, I also found many to be based on studies over twenty years old.
With groups like D.A.R.E. and SAM at the helm of school based drug prevention, parents need to begin educating their children at home and discussing what the phrase “drug use” means in their home. Much like religion and sexuality, cannabis is a subject that should not be left up to strangers. Each family has the obligation and right to decide how drug prevention is presented to their children and Columbia University's Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse agrees. “Parents are the key to kids avoiding drugs, and children who live with attentive parents stand a better chance of never using drugs than do those with 'hands-off' parents."
Regardless which side of the cannabis debate you’re on, it’s hard to argue that letting anti-cannabis groups provide scientifically inaccurate information to our children under the guise of education is as irresponsible as using out of date textbooks. We have a duty as parents to inform our children when something goes against our family’s morals and principals, and this subject matter is no different. As parents, it is our obligation to teach our children how to make decisions based on our own morals and principles.
So where can a parent go to obtain relevant, factual information to educate their own children? And once the conversation has been opened, what do you say? I’ve taken the liberty of scouring the internet in order to compile a short list of websites utilizing credible sources and real life ideas.
Here are just a few:
(I have no affiliation with any of the sites listed. They were vetted for credibility only and I do not personally “endorse” them.)
Pepper Sloan is a writer, cannabis activist, and self described strain connoisseur. Her passion for the holistic science of cannabis began with the diagnosis of a mysterious, unnamed genetic syndrome. In her former life, Pepper was a professional adult entertainer and today advocates for women’s empowerment. Currently enrolled in the Addiction Studies program at the University of South Dakota, she plans to continue her education in an effort to work with survivors of sexual trauma. Pepper is an avid marathon enthusiast, a loving mother, and the proud wife of a disabled combat veteran. Follow Pepper on Facebook, Instagram or/and Twitter
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