Tips for Educating Your Family on Medical Marijuana
Posted by Marijuana Doctors on 02/10/2017 in Medical Marijuana
Updated on January 30, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Marijuana is a political topic in recent years that has some emotion attached to it for some people. People who use marijuana and find it harmless feel discriminated against by laws that ban the substance, while alcohol is openly consumed. Many people believe alcohol is a far more dangerous substance than marijuana, but the laws don’t treat it that way.
Additionally, recent medical discoveries concerning marijuana are promising for the treatment and cure of disease. These medical findings seem to be at direct odds with the old stereotype of marijuana users being potheads and stoners. The moral argument against marijuana clashes with the medical argument, and you are caught in the middle.
If you have a medical need for marijuana, there are now legal avenues for you to fill that need. It may take some time, however, for the people around you to change their opinion of the substance, and by extension, you for using it.
Medical Marijuana and Family
If you have any previous experience with marijuana, it probably did not include your family. You were probably younger and hid your marijuana usage from your parents. If you continued recreational marijuana use into adulthood, your instinct was probably to hide it from your kids, too.
First heavily taxed in 1937 and then banned in the 1970s, recreational use of marijuana may be popular in some circles, but it carries a social stigma. For many, it was part of an adolescent rebellious period, and to others it represents what went wrong with our youth in this country. Marijuana usage is still prohibited by federal law.
Medical marijuana is different, though. Legalized in some states already, medical marijuana is not about getting high or partying. It is not something to hide from your family. If you qualify for medical marijuana treatment, you are probably happy to have this option.
Medical marijuana is used to treat conditions like these:
- Seizure disorders
- Nausea caused by chemotherapy treatments for cancer
- Muscles spasms associated with multiple sclerosis
- Weight loss caused by HIV or other chronic illness
- Crohn’s disease
- Nerve pain
These are rather serious conditions with symptoms that resist treatment by other means. Medical marijuana is a breakthrough for people suffering with these and other similar conditions. Still, you may have to get your family past the stigma of marijuana because all they know at this point are the negatives.
How to Talk to Your Family About Medical Marijuana
The key to talking to your family about medical marijuana is to actually talk about it. Starting the conversation might be the hardest part. You don’t have to hide medical marijuana, though, and you shouldn’t feel embarrassed by it, either. Medical marijuana represents an opportunity for you to relieve your discomfort, and your family will be glad there is something that can help you.
When you first became aware of the benefits of medical marijuana, you might have been surprised. After hearing for years about the dangers of smoking weed, you never expected anyone to recommend it, especially not a doctor. Whether your doctor told you what it could do for you or you did your own research on the benefits of medical marijuana, you are more enlightened now.
Your family needs to learn more about it, too, so they can embrace the benefits. You can help educate them, so they don’t think of it as a license to party. Let your family know that you took the time to learn about medical marijuana before deciding to try it and share some of your research with them.
You may want to share some of these facts with your family:
- Marijuana is safer than alcohol, carrying zero risk of overdose.
- Five of the compounds found in cannabis are used in other medicines.
- US government-approved research on marijuana has been fed by a marijuana growing operation at the University of Mississippi since 1968.
- Marijuana smoke may actually help protect the lungs against lung cancer, according to a 2006 report.
- A synthetic version of one compound found in marijuana, delta-9-THC, was approved for medical use in the US in 1985.
- When inhaled, marijuana can reach the brain and begin its cellular reactions in a few minutes.
- Marijuana that is swallowed becomes more powerful as it is processed by the liver
- Vitamin A is one of several compounds found in marijuana.
Having a factual discussion of medical marijuana with your family and friends can change any preconceived views they have about the substance. When they learn what marijuana really is and how it can help you and others with the same symptoms, they should be less inclined to judge your actions.
The conversations you have with your family and friends about medical marijuana should be about you, also. The legality of medical marijuana may be a political issue, but in this context it is not. You do not need them to change their political views or compromise what they stand for. You need them to understand your health situation and that using medical marijuana makes it better.
People can get pretty dug in with their political or moral views. When you appear to challenge those, they get defensive and don’t listen. You don’t want to set up that type of debate. You just want to tell your friends and family that you are trying something new, at your doctor’s recommendation, and you expect it to help you.
When you are feeling judged about your use of medical marijuana, turn the conversation to a personal level. Talk with your family about the symptoms you experience, the methods you have tried to relieve those symptoms and the results you get, or hope to get, from medical marijuana. The people who love you will support your decision to use medical marijuana when they understand what it means to you, personally.
Even if you were once a casual marijuana user, medical marijuana is different. Talk to your friends and family about the difference. Discussing things like dosage and potency may help them see that you have a serious medicinal need. Explain to them you don’t get medical marijuana from the dealer on the corner or grow it in your basement. It is just like any other prescription you get from a doctor.
Medical marijuana is an important idea to share with your family. When they see the results you get with it, they may have a use for medical marijuana as well. Sharing your experience will help anyone who wants to apply for their own medical marijuana card navigate the process.
Educating Your Kids on Medical Marijuana
Kids are curious about everything that goes on around them. Even when you think you are hiding something from them, they know about it. Kids will take what they know and fill in the blanks, putting their own spin on it rather than asking for more information. Just ask a young child how a person gets pregnant, and you will see the results of partial information and a child’s imagination.
The danger, then, is to not talk about your medical marijuana. Your kids will know you are hiding something. They may even understand that you are using marijuana. They are going to come up with their own ideas about what that means, though, and how it affects them. They will probably discuss their erroneous ideas with friends and neighbors, too, as children tend to do.
It is better to talk to your kids about medical marijuana than to let them come to their own conclusions about it. Here are some tips for talking to your kids about medical marijuana:
- Be honest — Kids always seem to know when you are lying, and it sets a bad example for them. When you are honest with your children, they feel respected and are more likely to return that respect. You also teach them the value of honesty and to develop their own healthy curiosity. There is no need to hide your medical marijuana or make up stories about it. Your kids will understand if you tell them the truth.
- Be age-appropriate — When talking to your children about medical marijuana, be sure to tailor the conversation to their age and ability level. What a three-year-old needs to know about marijuana is much different from what a fourteen-year-old can handle. Do not assume, however, based on their age that your children know what marijuana is or have heard the negative hype. It might be best to start with the basics and add on information as it becomes appropriate.
- Answer their questions — You should initiate the conversation about medical marijuana, but when you are finished, ask if they have any questions. Kids are very curious and won’t be satisfied with the information you give them if it doesn’t answer all of their questions. Children have a different perspective on the world, so they might have questions you didn’t think of. Listening to their questions will also help you gauge how sophisticated their thinking is on this subject. This will help you to know how much detail they need on this topic. Do not shy away from any question they ask. Just give the an honest and straight-forward answer.
- Be positive — If you approach the subject with trepidation, your children will pick up on that. While medical marijuana is something you keep in the house that is off limits to your children, it does not have to be a scary thing. Talk to your kids about the positive benefits it has for you, and how little it affects them.
- Be forthcoming — Let your children know that there is a new medicine in the house, although it may seem different than others you have taken. Be sure they understand that your medical marijuana is off-limits to them. It is something you take according to a doctor’s prescription, just like other medicines. If they are old enough to understand, you could even explain the dosing to them. These details will help reinforce the medical aspect and the fact that it is not something you use for fun.
- Maintain family privacy — Children often need to be reminded that certain topics of conversation are not meant to be shared outside of the household. You may intend to tell certain people about your medical marijuana use, but you don’t want them to end up hearing it from your kids first. Explain to your children that your use of medical marijuana is part of your personal health information that you do not share with anyone. Give them specific examples of who they cannot mention this to, like the neighbors or their friends at school. If there are other family members who know about it, make it clear to your children who they are. Be specific about the small circle of people who are in on this conversation.
- Be open — Talk to your kids about the difference between medical marijuana and recreational marijuana, and be open to answering their questions. Because you use medical marijuana does not mean it is okay for your kids to smoke pot with the kids at school. It does not give your children a license to experiment with marijuana or any other drug. Explain the difference to them, so they do not think you have a double standard. Draw a parallel between medical marijuana and any other prescription medicine. It is only for the person it is prescribed to, and you take it according to the doctor’s dosing instructions.
Once your kids understand the facts about medical marijuana and why you use it, having it around should pose no risk to them. Keep your marijuana in a secured location, and never leave it out. This will cut down on the risk that someone else gets ahold of it.
When you are honest and open with your kids about medical marijuana, they are less likely to get into trouble. You should not have to worry that your use of marijuana for medical purposes will cause your kids to become potheads. Kids who are educated about marijuana will be less likely to want to experiment with it out of curiosity.
If you are open and honest with your kids, they will come to you with their questions. You will know when they are curious about using marijuana and if they are being pressured or exposed to it at school. That is a completely different conversation, but it’s one that might be easier once you have already discussed the topic of marijuana in the context of your medical usage.
How to Talk to Your Parents About Medical Marijuana
Talking to your parents about medical marijuana may mean breaking through some long-held stereotypes. Your parents may see marijuana as a dangerous drug or as the root of all evil in teenagers. Some people think marijuana is the reason for irresponsibility in young adults, or that people who smoke pot are throwing their lives away. Many people lump cannabis in with other drugs that are much more dangerous and addictive. This perspective is usually a product of inexperience and insufficient knowledge.
Talking to your parents about medical marijuana might mean educating them about drugs in general as well as explaining your need for medical marijuana. Here are some tips for having the medical marijuana conversation with your parents:
- Be prepared for disapproval — You may face some rather fierce negativity at first, so be prepared. Conversations like this between parents and their children can be emotionally charged no matter what age you are. Hold on and state your case when it is your turn to speak again, but assume your parents are not trying to hurt you — they are just concerned for your safety, and they may be products of their generation.
- Get the timing right — Knowing that your parents may not respond well to this conversation, you should plan it for the right time. Make sure it is when it’s just you around, and plan the conversation for a time when they can focus on what you are talking about and do not have to rush off to do something else. They will need time to process the information you present them with. Don’t plan to have this conversation in a public place where it could be overheard, or your parents might feel self-conscious talking about it. You want them to feel free to ask you any questions they have.
- Present the facts — Medical marijuana could be an emotional issue for your parents to discuss because of their preconceived ideas and their concern for your well-being. You want to move the conversation beyond emotions as soon as possible and present facts like these from a 2014 article in Business Insider:
- Marijuana helps control seizures from epilepsy and other seizure disorders.
- It suppresses nausea and may decrease anxiety.
- Marijuana treats inflammatory bowel diseases by blocking bacteria from entering the intestines
- It could actually improve lung health in tobacco smokers.
- The active chemical in marijuana, THC, slows the formation of plaques that kill brain cells with Alzheimer’s.
- Marijuana reduces side effects in treatments for Hep C, Cancer and other serious diseases.
- A chemical in cannabis may keep cancer from spreading.
- Marijuana promotes sleep, decreases inflammation and relieves pain in arthritis sufferers.
- It relieves the intense muscle pain of multiple sclerosis.
- According to the Huffington Post, here are some successful people who use marijuana:
- Oliver Stone
- Hugh Hefner
- Lincoln Chafee
- Phil Jackson
- Susan Sarandon
- Maya Angelou
- Here are some other facts to throw into your conversation with your parents about medical marijuana:
- Marijuana use in the US is increasing, from 4.5% in 2002 to 9.5% in 2012.
- Medical marijuana use is legal in 23 states.
- Most Americans (69%) think marijuana is less harmful than alcohol
- Recreational use of marijuana is legal in Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska.
- There are 14 states where marijuana possession has been decriminalized.
- Be polite, no matter what — Changing opinions is hard. It takes time and trust. Do not erode your relationship with your parents by being rude or disrespectful. Their beliefs are based on what they knew about marijuana and their desire to keep you safe. Respect their love for you while sharing this new information with them, then give them time to think it over and do their own research.
- Expect a follow-up — There is a lot to learn about medical marijuana, and that is a lot of information to process. Do not expect to have this conversation just once and never address it again. Instead, expect your parents, encourage them even, to take some time to think about it and come back to you with their follow-up questions and comments. Rushing your parents into understanding your use of medical marijuana might not have a positive outcome. Give them time to get used to the idea.
- Expose them to it — If your parents are unfamiliar with marijuana, you might try exposing them to it a little at a time. Show them what it looks like and how you use it. Explain to them the process you went through to get it. Satisfying all of their curiosities about marijuana may help your parents become more comfortable with it.
Learn More With Marijuana Doctors
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