How to talk to your teen about marijuana

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Did you know that the rate of cannabis use is two times higher among Canadian youth aged 15-24 compared to adults? One in five teens aged 15 and 19 have used it in the past year (Statistics Canada, 2016). Moreover, Cannabis use by students across Canada increased from 16.7% in 2016–2017 to 18.1% in 2018–2019 (CSTADS).

With the legalization of marijuana, your teen might be wondering whether it would be okay for them to start using it too. While you can still say that “You can’t do it because it’s illegal” to your kids younger than 19, you can only provide advice to your legal-aged kids when they start taking interest in it.

Don’t panic. It’s great that your kids are initiating the conversation. This means that they are looking to you for guidance. However, if they didn’t raise the question, there’s value in talking to them about it. The more informed they are about cannabis and its effects, the less likely they’ll be swayed by peer pressure.

Here are a few things to remember when talking to your kids about marijuana:

  1. Be open

    Don’t just say “No, you can’t use marijuana because I say so.” This never works. Being strict can actually place them in danger. They will be scared to ask questions. It can also prevent them from asking help if they are pressured by friends.

    Encourage honest and open dialogue. Listen to the reasons why they might be interested in using marijuana. Some kids are just curious about the feeling of being “high”. Your child might also say that they’ve heard that it helps with stress or anxiety. Take this opportunity to ask why they might be feeling this way – what’s stressing them out? You can also suggest healthier options to relax or let off steam.

    Avoid the tendency to lecture. It can be hard because you care so much for them, but try to stay objective.

  2. Know the facts

    Learn more cannabis facts so you can provide accurate information. Kids have a hazy idea about the effects of cannabis. Most get information from peers, movies, and popular culture where marijuana is seen as harmless and fun. Newcomer kids can be especially vulnerable. Some may not be familiar at all with marijuana. Some might also be easily pressured by friends because of their need to belong.

    Here are some important facts about marijuana and its effect on young people:

    • The earlier you use marijuana, the worse it will be for your brain. The prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that controls reasoning and impulses, does not fully mature until around the age of 25. Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the substance in cannabis which causes the “high,” affects the same machinery in the brain that directs brain development.
    • Scientific evidence shows that the use of cannabis during teen years can interfere with school performance and well-being. Young cannabis users are likely to experience the following:
      • difficulty holding back or controlling emotion
      • preference for high-excitement and low-effort activities
      • poor planning and judgement (rarely thinking of negative consequences)
      • more risky, impulsive behaviours, including experimenting with drugs and alcohol
    • Adolescents are 16% more prone to being addicted to cannabis. Sustained and regular use poses more danger to their health:
      • They become more prone to developing mental illness (such as schizophrenia, depression and anxiety disorders) especially if they use it frequently or if they have a family history of mental illness.
      • Prolonged use could also damage lung health and lead to bronchitis, lung infections and chronic (long term) cough.
    • Cannabis, combined with alcohol and other drugs can be lethal. The dangerous combination increases the likelihood of negative psychological and physical side effects. It can also increase the risk of getting into a car accident when used before driving.

    Read Curious about cannabis? Here’s what you need to know about cannabis in Canada for more facts about marijuana.

  3. Be clear about your goals and stay positive

    It should be clear to them that you want to keep them safe from potential harm because you care for their well-being. Address their misconceptions and provide the right tools.

    Tell them that just because it’s legal, it doesn’t mean that it’s safe. They might be forgetting that alcohol and cigarettes are legal too, and that just like cannabis, using (and abusing) has negative consequences. Be patient. Trust that your kids will be smart enough to make the right decision.

  4. Model good behavior

    If you drink alcohol or smoke pot, expect that your kids will you call you out on this. This can be a good opportunity to share what you have learned from your experience. Talk to them candidly about learning how to do things in moderation and the importance of not being controlled by one’s vices. Show them positive ways of handling stress and healthy ways of recreation.

  5. Continue the dialogue

    You can have more than one conversation about marijuana with your kids. Ask general questions like “Do you have some questions about marijuana?” and try to keep it informal. Most importantly, let them know that you are always available to talk if they have other questions or concerns.

Talking with your kids about drugs might seem tough at first, but it’s important to try. Here are some simple steps you can take to get ready for conversations with your children: Get ready to talk! Some simple steps towards preventing drug and alcohol use by your child (Drug Free Kids/

Article updated May 10, 2023.
Sources: Cannabis Talk Kit: Know how to talk with your teen, Drug Free Kids,; Doctor’s notes: How to talk to your kids about marijuana, Dr. Karen Leslie, the Star; How to talk with your kids about cannabis use after legalization, CBC News; and Cannabis health effects, Government of Canada. Retrieved October 11, 2018.

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Community Resources

There are several Addictions Agencies serving adults in Manitoba. If you need help for youth under 18, you can refer to this list: Addictions agencies for youth under 18.

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