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Letter sent on Aug 8, 2017

Why Didn’t My Parents Just Tell Me They Smoke Weed?

As a kid, I made a habit of rounding up all the spare tire-pressure gauges my father left around the house and demanding my mom tell me what they were. I was sure my parents had a secret and that those weird little devices were part of it. Now I realize my mechanic father was just messy, and that I thought those little tools were marijuana pipes.

My parents hardly ever drank, but they were habitual stoners. They both routinely locked themselves in their bedroom, the bathroom and the family room, where the same, weird odor would always emerge. It was one of the few things they kept secret from me. For comparison: They never covered my ears when they cursed or gossiped. And my dad’s Marlboro Light 100s sat out in plain view. But their weed smoking was different. I might have smelled it, but it was never to be seen.

In fairness, it was the 1990s. Medicinal marijuana was legal, but the widespread normalization of cannabis use, even in a state like California (where we lived), was yet to come. Now, though, things are obviously much different — recreational weed is legal in Washington and Colorado, and it’s about to be in California, too. So the question of when and how to disclose the fact that you smoke (and/or ingest) weed to your kids is more pressing than ever.

Should you smoke a joint in front of your kids as casually as you’d sip a beer? And if so, should you bother teaching them anything about said substance beyond just seeing it? Not to mention, when should you tell them?

While experts are sure to disagree on the best answers to these questions, I decided to find out what my two favorite marijuana experts — my parents — had to say about the big, green elephant in the room.

Jeff (aka My Dad)

I was 22 or 23 when I moved in with my brother. He had two kids, 5 and 7, at the time. I remember the first time he asked me if I wanted to smoke. I stood up, assuming we were going to head into the garage. But he went ahead and rolled up a doobie right there in the living room, in front of the kids. They acted like it was no big deal. That was something I’d never seen before — a whole different approach.

My brother was like, “If they’re going to smoke, they’re going to smoke.” He thought if he hid the weed from his kids, it would only become more attractive to them. I found his attitude refreshing. He didn’t want to lie to his kids. And as it turns out, neither one of them grew up to smoke weed.

I never thought I’d have kids, so I never gave much thought to what I’d do once I was in his shoes. I do know that I don’t think we hid weed from you, but we didn’t throw it in your face either. I just figured if you smoked, you smoked, and if you didn’t, you didn’t. When you were about 7, mom came in and was like, “I think Tierney knows we’re smoking weed.” “I’m pretty sure she’s known since she was 2 and a half,” I responded. You picked up on shit quick. You’d stomp around unimpressed, shouting, “What’s that smell?!”

It probably seemed like we were hiding the weed more than we were because we also lived with your grandparents, who we were hiding it from.

The whole situation comes down to a question of whether or not you want your kids to be exposed to something. But I don’t regret not smoking openly in front of you while you were growing up, even though you’ve since told me you thought we were straight-up drug addicts until you figured out what weed was for yourself.

You see, unlike Mom, I’d notice when our weed bag was light. So when you got to be 16 or 17, I’d ask Mom if she’d given some weed to someone or put it in a different container. But I knew you had your hands in it. I never said anything because I didn’t think it was a big deal; you’ve always had your shit together. I was just happy you never took the whole bag.

In terms of how legalization is progressing today, it’s bullshit that so many people, including so many parents, are still locked up on weed-related crimes when other people are getting praised for their cannabis businesses. That’s something that needs to be looked at now that weed is decriminalized; state by state, past offenders brought in on weed charges need to be let go. Aside from that, I don’t think there’s any major difference in raising your kids around weed now than there was 20 years ago. It simply all depends on how you handle it.

Shannon (aka My Mom)

Once you saw me with a bong, I knew you knew. You were 7 or 8. I was on my way to a friend’s funeral when you caught me rushing into my room to stash it away. Suddenly, you were silent and staring at me, so I told you it was one of dad’s car parts. You probably knew I was lying.

At the time, I never imagined a scenario where I would be openly smoking weed in front of you because it wasn’t legal. I didn’t feel like a bad mom for smoking because I don’t think weed is bad, but I didn’t want you to bring it up at school when the coolest thing happening there was DARE. Plus, the other moms I hung out with weren’t smoking weed. I felt like it was just me, so I hid it. Also, I have eight siblings and most of them didn’t smoke, especially around their kids, so there was going to be a lot of judgment if they found out.

You must have always known what was going, though. Or at least that something was going on, because anytime I’d smoke in a room with the door locked, you’d start pounding on it and asking about the smell. You were a brat whenever you were suspicious, especially at family parties when I’d step outside with someone and come back in stoned. You were always quick to kill my buzz by asking where I was, which was ridiculous because we otherwise spent almost every minute of every day together. Nothing came before my baby. Dad always told me you knew about the weed, but I swore you didn’t until you admitted to me that you had tried it yourself.

When I was growing up, my parents never once mentioned weed to me. What the hell did they know about it? It was the 1950s. I don’t necessarily think they were anti-weed, but there wasn’t much talk about it in general. Until one day when my dad went around the room and asked each of us if we’d ever tried it. When he got to me, he said, “I’m not even going to ask you!” That’s when I knew he knew.

He was more or less cool with it, although we never talked about it explicitly. It was now the early 1970s, and things had loosened up.

We’re living in a totally new generation today. It won’t be a big deal at all for you to smoke a joint in front of your kids. And I can’t wait to smoke a joint with you at your wedding.

Tierney Finster is a contributing writer at MEL. She last wrote about why James Baldwin was way ahead of his time on gender.

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