Having 'drug talk' with kids

In this June 12, 2012 photo, Trish Nixon, left, stands with her 21-year-old daughter, Krista Nixon, in Colorado Springs, Colo. Trish Nixon talks about the challenge she has faced over the years about marijuana. Nixon said the message to her daughter changed over the years, evolving from "It's against the law, don't do it," to a more nuanced message that takes into consideration medical marijuana and ballot initiatives to legalize the drug. Trish Nixon said her mother's message meshed with what she was learning through her friends, which included some who used marijuana. (AP Photo/P. Solomon Banda)
In this June 12, 2012 photo, Trish Nixon, left, stands with her 21-year-old daughter, Krista Nixon, in Colorado Springs, Colo. Trish Nixon talks about the challenge she has faced over the years about marijuana. Nixon said the message to her daughter changed over the years, evolving from "It's against the law, don't do it," to a more nuanced message that takes into consideration medical marijuana and ballot initiatives to legalize the drug. Trish Nixon said her mother's message meshed with what she was learning through her friends, which included some who used marijuana. (AP Photo/P. Solomon Banda) (AP)

As more states allow medical marijuana, the discussion is becoming more problematic.

Posted: June 19, 2012

DENVER - Michael Jolton was a young father with a 5-year-old son when Colorado legalized medical marijuana in 2000. Now he's got three boys, the oldest near adulthood, and finds himself repeatedly explaining green-leafed marijuana ads and "free joint" promotions endemic in his suburban hometown.

"I did not talk to my oldest son about marijuana when he was 8 years old. We got to talk about fun stuff. Now with my youngest who's 8, we have to talk about this," said Jolton.

A marijuana opponent with a just-say-no philosophy, Jolton, 48, is among legions of American parents finding the "drug talk" increasingly problematic as more states allow medical marijuana or decriminalize its use. Colorado and Washington state have measures on their Nov. 6 ballot that would go a further step and legalize recreational use of marijuana for adults.

Parent-child conversations about pot "have become extraordinarily complicated," said Stephen Pasierb, president of the Partnership at Drugfree.org, which provides resources for parents concerned about youth drug use.

Legalization and medical use of marijuana have "created a perception among kids that this is no big deal," Pasierb said. "You need a calm, rational conversation, not yelling and screaming, and you need the discipline to listen to your child."

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the pro-legalization Drug Policy Alliance, says the family conversations "are becoming a lot more real" because most of today's parents likely tried marijuana themselves.

The Haskins family of Olympia, Wash., provides a vivid example of how the conversations have evolved.

Sarena Haskins, 41, and her sister are both longtime users of pot for health reasons, and Sarena's 12-year-old daughter, Hannah, has become an advocate of medical marijuana to the point of posting a video online expressing her views.

Yet Sarena Haskins opposes the ballot measure that would legalize recreational use of pot in Washington and advises Hannah to avoid experimentation with the drug.

"I'm a little a little nervous about those conversations, but I'm having them now," Haskins said. "I tell Hannah it's not a smart choice, that she needs to focus on school . . . You can't just be a pot head and be lazy."

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