Speaker: Talk to your kids about pot

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    Jennifer Michaels, a brain specialist, speaks to parents at "parenting in the age a marijuana" an event hosted by several school districts and nonprofits in the area.

Recorder Staff
Published: 4/6/2017 11:36:47 PM

TURNERS FALLS — A joint in 2017 is equal to 15 joints from the 1970s, speaker Jennifer Michaels told local parents during a two-hour presentation about teen marijuana use.

“The marijuana today is not the marijuana of our teenage years,” she said.

Michaels said marijuana plants have changed since the 1970s, and are now engineered to have more potent THC — the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

About 80 parents, staff and caregivers from across Franklin County showed up Thursday night to “Parenting in the Age of Legal Marijuana,” hosted by Franklin County Technical School, the Greenfield and Gill-Montague school districts along with several community health organizations.

The event, which was held at the tech school, included local statistics, tips to talk to your child about drug use, a Q&A and a presentation by brain specialist Jennifer Michaels.

Michaels is Medical Director of the Child and Adolescent Services Division of the Brien Center for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Before Michaels spoke, Jeanette Voas from the Franklin Regional Council of Governments gave statistics on local teen drug use. The information was collected through anonymous surveys at all public schools in Franklin County.

Speakers noted that while marijuana has been decriminalized for adults, its use is still illegal for people under the age of 21. Still, they said, decriminalization and relaxed public attitudes about marijuana have led to an increase in teen use. The 2016 survey showed that 41 percent of Franklin County high school seniors had used marijuana in the previous 30 days.

The survey also showed that kids were much less likely to use marijuana if they know their parents are against it.

“Parents matter, The messages that you’re sending to your kids are very important,” Voas said.

During Michaels’ presentation, she focused on how parents can speak to children about the drug, and encouraged them to avoid scare tactics.

Michaels also touched on the brain science behind addiction and what happens to a teen’s brain while using marijuana. She said that brains continue to develop until about 25 years old, and that regular marijuana use during teenage years can lead to decreased memory and decreased IQ.

She also explained how different types of consumption work, from smoking and vaping to edibles and dabs.

Michaels said there’s a lot of opportunities and vulnerabilities for youths during teenage years. She said people that use a substance when they are under 18 are more likely to have substance issues later in life, though that’s not guaranteed.

She said many teens now think that marijuana is safer than alcohol, which she said is correct, but often the two are used together.

“It is considered safer than alcohol but it’s not safe,” she said.

As for talking to kids about drug use, Michaels recommends first creating some ground rules. She told parents to be a team, be a parent, not a friend, and provide a consistent, specific message.

She also told parents to “deal in the present” and avoid bringing up the past mistakes of children. They should check their attitude before going into the conversation and think about how they would want someone to speak to them. She said it’s best for parents to avoid threats or shaming and no matter what, make sure you talk to your children early and often.

“If you aren’t talking to your kids, who is going to?” she asked. “And what are they going to be teaching them?”

Reach Miranda Davis at
413-772-0261, ext. 280
or mdavis@recorder.com.


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