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I Let My Teenage Son Smoke Marijuana And He Turned Out Just Fine

Mike Sager On Weed: A new study confirms what 50 years of experience taught me — smoking marijuana as a teenager doesn’t cause brain damage.

    Mike Sager , Patch Contributing Writer
Posted Wed, Aug 14, 2019 at 2:58 p m PT | Updated Tue, Aug 20, 2019 at 5:20 a m PT

LA JOLLA, Calif. — As a high school kid, I never thought twice about smoking weed at home.

I’d light up in my bedroom on a solitary Saturday night — pre-gaming for the Midnight Special, hosted by Wolfman Jack. Using a small bong to better control the smoke and the smell, I’d blithely blow the smoke out the window.

Or my friends would come over and we’d head to the basement, which was known as the Den of Iniquity. The room had a garish, Yellow Submarine-era wall mural, painted in orange, pink and purple. There was a pink, faux goat-hair rug we were supposed to rake after use, and a sliding door onto the back yard. I do not recall anyone ever drinking alcohol down there. However, a girl once freaked out on acid and ended up in a facility. But in those days, everyone knew someone who’d been on a bad trip, or someone whose parents had found a few joints in their room and sent them to rehab or military school. Or someone who had been drafted into military service for the war in Vietnam.

Clueless teenager that I was, I took it for granted that my parents allowed my friends and me to smoke pot at home. As a family we never discussed it, though we discussed everything else to death. If I was smoking in my room, my parents would never knock or open the door —they’d call me for dinner or say good night from the other side, feigning normalcy. Ditto when we were in the Den of Iniquity. It was as if, in my house at least, pot smoke contained a powerful and highly effective ingredient that repelled parents, a weed force field.

Of course, whenever I came home from a night out, my dad was always awake. He was a doctor. He had his foibles, but he possessed a seemingly infinite reservoir of inarticulate love. He never failed to look searchingly into my eyes, as if assessing the size of my pupils, their relative glassiness, my general tone and demeanor. He was not the kind of person who allowed himself to lose control. His heroic college drinking story saw him cleverly pouring his own shots into a potted plant. He was just worried for me. He never understood the appeal of letting go a little bit. And now there was this new thing. It was called getting high.

But there was another new thing he better understood. The Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970. Just at the time when the groovy sixties were percolating into the strident seventies, and smoking pot was as much a political act as a means of copping a buzz, Richard M. Nixon signed a law that made smoking weed in America a felony offense. Over the next half century, millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens would be arrested for simple weed possession. Millions. Doing serious time.

Accompanying the laws was the corollary justifying propaganda. A Reefer Madness attitude prevailed: Weed would make men dangerous, women wanton. Users would end up consorting with all sorts of deviants and people of color and produce babies with two heads. School work would plummet. Futures would be wasted. Pot was a schedule 1 drug. Equal to heroin.

More fundamentally important, Nixon’s law marked the first stirrings of the wasteful and much-lamented War on Drugs, which focused our national attention on law and order at the expense of health, education and justice. Today the fallout is everywhere — from movements like Black Lives Matter, to calls for expungement and sentencing reform, to the legalization of pot.

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Crazy as it seems, I guess my parents must have come to the enlightened conclusion (especially for the suburb of Baltimore where I lived) that if they couldn’t stop me from smoking pot, it would be safest for me to smoke my pot at home.

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One thing I’m sure about: they weren’t worried about my grades going to hell, because my grades weren’t good to begin with.

‘Daddy smokes medicine’

One afternoon, when my son was in high school, he let me know he was ready to start smoking weed.

As it happens, since he was born, I have always had a home office where I could exercise my personal freedoms without impinging upon others. At times, however, when my son was a toddler and family and friends were gathered outside on the deck, I smoked weed in his presence. Of course, like any kid, he was immediately fascinated with stuff that was not for him. We told him it was “Daddy’s Medicine.”

Later, when he was in pre-school, in response to a lesson about matches and cigarettes, my son told his teacher, “My daddy smokes medicine.” After that, I made sure he never once witnessed me smoking weed again. (Luckily we were living in California. His preschool teacher happened to be dating my son’s randy grandad; she smoked pot, too.)

By the time my son was 16, as far as I knew, he had long forgotten. When he revealed he was thinking about trying pot for the first time, I stayed cool and opened my ears. This is what you hope your kids will do. Tell you things. Alert you to their milestones. Share their experiences and their decision-making process so you can help them grow.

A few minutes later he opened up further. He’d already bought the weed.

It was hidden in an empty deodorant can that still reeked of manly scent. Two sorry looking joints, one wrapped in tree-derived paper, the other wrapped in blunt paper, which is a rolling paper made out of tobacco leaves, full of nicotine, just like cigarettes.

Uh-oh. Pot is one thing. Tobacco is another.

Without comment, I unrolled the blunt and spilled the loose weed onto the smooth velum cover of a magazine. I grabbed a pack of rolling papers from a secret place in a nearby drawer and quickly re-rolled him a perfect joint.

His eyes saucered — a combination of befuddlement and respect, I think.

A new study says that using cannabis during adolescence is not associated with structural brain differences in adulthood. AP file photo

Right then, at the moment I had his willing attention, I told him two things.

First, I told him that smoking blunt papers are the same as smoking cigarettes.

Then I told him he had permission to smoke pot on our property, as long as it was outside or in my office, and as long as I was not present or in view. I promised to keep the house stocked with plenty of munchies, PS2 games, and all the on-demand channels he could watch, so there was no need to drive anywhere.

One Less Thing To Worry About

Like my own parents, when it came to my son’s marijuana use — speaking now ten years later, well beyond the statute of limitations — I made what most parents would probably consider an unusual call.

Quite unlike my folks, Bev and Marv, I had more than 30 years of personal experience smoking marijuana. And there is no disputing the fact that I have thus far led a successful life and career. At the end of the day, that’s been the most important thing. Stoned or not, nobody can ever say I didn’t conduct myself with care.

Today, even though weed is legal in some form in 44 states and the District of Columbia, you must be 21 to legally use. So, as it was when I was a child, parents of teens still face the same predicament. What happens when your kid is determined to use weed before he’s 21? How do you handle it.

If you’ve ever seen Romeo and Juliet, you know all you need to know about vehement reactions to teenage decisions. You might also be interested to know that despite legalization, in 2017, there were 599,282 arrests (36.7 percent of all drug arrests in America) for simple marijuana possession.

Maybe one comforting fact is the conclusion of a recent study published in the medical journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence — Scientists have found that the use of cannabis during adolescence is not associated with structural brain differences in adulthood.

The study researchers tracked 1,000 male adolescents with several basic marijuana use patterns — from no cannabis use (defined as four days of use or less) to heavy use (defined as, on average, 782 days of use). Twenty years later, when they’d reached the ages of 30 to 36, a subset of participants underwent structural brain imaging. Scientists examined 14 brain regions of interest, including the amygdala and the hippocampus.

The results found “no differences in adult brain structure for boys in the different adolescent cannabis trajectory subgroups. Even boys with the highest level of cannabis exposure in adolescence . . . were similar to boys with almost no exposure to cannabis throughout adolescence.”

So I guess that’s one less thing to worry about. The rest is up to your kids. They’re going to do it whether you want them to or not. Later in life? Who knows.

Today my son is 25. He gave up weed a few years ago.

Mike Sager is a bestselling author and award-winning reporter. His work has appeared in Esquire, Rolling Stone, GQ and the Washington Post. Many of his stories have been optioned for or have inspired films or documentaries. He has been called “the Beat poet of American journalism, that rare reporter who can make literature out of shabby reality.”

I Let My Teenage Son Smoke Marijuana And He Turned Out Just Fine – San Diego, CA – Mike Sager On Weed: A new study confirms what 50 years of experience taught me — smoking marijuana as a teenager doesn't cause brain damage.