A Parent’s Guide to Cannabis

Interested in trying marijuana as a parent? Find expert advice on cannabis use, including the best products for beginners and how to indulge safely around kids.

Parenting can be a tough job and sometimes mom or dad needs a little something at the end of the day to help them relax and unwind.Some parents might reach for a glass of wine or a beer, but now that cannabis is legal in Illinois, a hit off a bowl or half an edible is a viable alternative.

That said, using cannabis as a parent isn’t going to be quite like when you (may or may not) have smoked it as a teenager. Having kids around means that you have to be more mindful.

Here, two cannabis industry experts offer their tips on using for the first time as a parent, including why cannabis can be beneficial for parents, which products could work for you, when to use it and how to keep it out of your kids’ hands.

Why cannabis?

According to a 2020 report from Harvard Medical School, marijuana can be used to ease chronic pain, manage nausea, calm the mind and relax the body — making it easier for some folks to fall asleep.

“Cannabis is not a cure-all. It’s not going to solve life’s problems, but it can make things more manageable,” says Abigail Watkins, the marketing director for Dispensary 33 (D33), which is based in Chicago.

For parents, it can be used to help relax the mind and bring them into the present to focus on things other than everything that’s on the to-do list.

“People use cannabis for a multitude of different reasons,” adds Benjamin Sobczak, the chief legal officer for Pleasantrees — a Michigan-based cannabis dispensary with locations in Hamtramck, East Lansing, Houghton Lake and Massachusetts.

“I’m a pretty high-keyed up person and I have a stressful job, so I often have a hard time being in the moment. I’m generally focused on the future or worrying about the past, cannabis helps me relax and smell the roses.”

And being present in the moment allows Sobczak to focus more on being a parent to his 3-year-old son, too.

“Generally speaking, being a more relaxed and present person certainly can help you be a better parent,” he explains. “To be present allows you to enjoy all the wonderful details of the moments that you get with your kids — (plus) a little buzz makes the Lego blocks a little more fun for me, too.”

Tips for first-timers

With the legalization of marijuana came a wide variety of different products for parents to try, and with each one comes a little bit different effect.

According to Watkins, flowers — the bud you think of when you roll a joint or smoke out of a bowl — is still the reigning queen at D33.

“It’s the most popular form of consumption in Illinois and it’s the best way to find your dose because you can feel the full effects in 15 minutes,” she explains. “After 15 minutes, you can decide if that’s enough or if you want to take another puff.”

Depending on the type of flower you’re using, Watkins says that you may feel more energized or a sense of euphoria. At a higher dose, you may feel more of a sedative effect, which is why it’s important to start slow and gradually work your way up.

Of course, there are some drawbacks when it comes to smoking flowers.

“Flower is the main stay, but it’s difficult for some people to smoke it, and obviously it smells like smoking weed, which may not be great depending on where you’re at,” Sobczak says.

Parents who don’t think flowers are right for them can also try edibles, which are food products that contain cannabis. It will take longer to feel the effects of an edible, but according to Sobczak, they also last longer and have less of a cognitive impact. 

Another option for parents might be vape cartridges, which tend to be quick and reliable.

“I would recommend (vapes) because they are generally consistent in dosing, the smell doesn’t hang in the air, they’re discreet and they have immediate fast-acting impact,” says Sobczak. “You hit it once and in two-three minutes you feel it. There are no surprises.”

How to keep kids safe

The best way to keep cannabis out of your kids’ hands is to use it responsibly and to treat it the same way you would treat anything else you don’t want them to have.  

If you’re just starting out, it’s best to begin with a small dose and away from your kids until you understand what your dose is and how you react to different products or strains.

“You don’t want to get all loopy and freak them out and you don’t want them to freak you out either,” Sobczak says.

Once you are comfortable, you can start incorporating it more into your life, but you should always be mindful of how you need to care for your kids and if the timing is appropriate.

“You should never use any type of substance or stimulus when you can’t look after your kids,” Sobczak explains. “Treat it like you would alcohol. If you want to have a glass of wine or some beers on a boat while taking kids to the sand bar, and you can handle your(self), that’s no problem, but no one wants to be wasted in front of their 5-year-old. The same rules apply here.”

It’s also important that you buy your cannabis products from reputable dispensaries that use child-proof packaging. You should also steer clear of any brands that use packaging to mimic candy and keep your cannabis products in a place your child can’t get to.

Ending the stigma

Parents who get some benefits of using cannabis can also do a lot in ending the taboo surrounding cannabis use by simply talking about it and not buying into stereotypes about those that choose to partake. 

“It’s both completely baseless and inaccurate to assume any negative characteristics upon a person because they are a cannabis user,” Sobczak says. “Cannabis may enhance certain personality characteristics but it doesn’t change who they are.”

“There’s a little more stigma around partaking in cannabis as a young parent and it’s a different stigma than consuming alcohol,” Watkins adds. “When mom or dad needs wine to distress, everyone is OK but when it comes to cannabis there is a little more judgment, but (cannabis) can also help parents manage stress day-to-day.”

“Talk about it,” she says. Because “it’s really a normal thing to do.”


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