How to talk to your kids about legal cannabis.

So cannabis is legal. What now?  Having conversations with your teen about Cannabis in a new era of legal weed will require thoughtful consideration and a clear parenting strategy regarding your beliefs and values.   Here are some points to consider.


It’s not safe.  Tell your kids as many times as possible. Show them the science.  They may not listen, or may not seem to be listening - but talk to them all the same. Sit down and really explain your fears and concerns, let them see how much you care.  

  • Tell them how marijuana use early in life can affect their neuro chemistry.
  • Tell them how it can interfere with their goals and dreams.
  • Explain to them how important this part of their lives is for growth and how damaging it can be to throw drugs into that mix.
  • Show them the links with mental health issues.


Understand the nuance. It is not clear how the culture around cannabis will evolve as legalization unfolds. There is a powerful mythology around cannabis that it is completely harmless. This mythology is supported and perpetuated by peer groups, music, entertainment, business and etc.

  • The fact of its legalization may be seen as support for its safety as well.  But legality is no sign of safety, cigarettes and alcohol which are both fully legal, kill millions of people a year worldwide.
  • Try to help your child see the complexity of the situation by sharing insight.  Cannabis may not be lethal and it may be legal, but it also has real and concrete impacts on the brain.  And because research has been limited, there is a lot we don’t know about how it affects the developing brain. 
  • The nuance, which can be hard for younger people to see, is that, while marijuana may seem harmless, it can seriously and in a very real way interfere with their life.  It can and does derail many young people’s lives. 


Have a clear position. Be consistent and clear with your feelings about cannabis.  Think carefully about the kinds of impacts it can have.  Develop a plan and rules and be clear about them and why they matter.

  • Consider the social pressures your child might be facing and support them with strategies for coping with those pressures.   There is tremendous social pressure on teens in general and experimentation with cannabis will very likely be part of that social pressure. 
  • Talk to other parents and develop a shared plan for dealing with marijuana use in your children’s peer groups. It is wise to know how other parents in your child’s friend group view marijuana use, as their views will impact their children and yours.
  •  Above all, keep the lines of communication open with your child, listen, be empathetic and talk to them frankly and with compassion.


Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre is a long-term, semi-residential treatment program that focuses on individualized programs for teens and their family.  Qualified and experienced clinical counsellors along with peer counsellors work with the client, their parents and siblings to provide evidence-informed treatment practices. AARC’s program is based on the 12-step model, and is accredited by the Canadian Accreditation Council (CAC). AARC works closely with the Calgary Police Service and has an 80.5% completion rate. AARC graduates are encouraged to attend weekly aftercare groups. Contact AARC at to speak with our counsellors, as well as AARC graduates and their parents. We help teens reach their twenties.