When Michelle, a 40-year-old lawyer from Connecticut, visited her son at college in Colorado, it did not occur to her at first that she would be venturing from a state where recreational marijuana was still against the law to one that had recently voted to legalize it.
But when she did realize it, she decided it would be fun to get high legally — with her son.
Michelle and Schuyler, a 19-year-old organismal biology and ecology major, are pioneers in the brave new world of pot use. (To preserve their privacy, both requested that Yahoo News not use their last name.)
Over the last four and a half years, eight states and Washington, D.C., have legalized pot for recreational use; medical marijuana is legal in 28 states plus D.C. Strictly speaking, selling or possessing marijuana is still a federal crime, although rarely enforced except against large-scale growers or dealers; the new administration may be rethinking that policy. (Across our northern border, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau just introduced legislation that would make Canada the second nation in the world to completely legalize marijuana as a consumer product.) Before long, the U.S. marijuana industry will be creating more jobs than manufacturing — and joints may be as commonplace as pints.
How is this tectonic shift in society affecting our most important relationships? To find out, Yahoo partnered with the Marist Poll to produce an exclusive, in-depth look at weed and the American family, based on a survey of 1,122 Americans 18 and older.
As the law evolves, and as social attitudes evolve along with it, more and more Americans are overcoming old taboos and incorporating pot into their family lives. Marijuana use has become surprisingly open and acceptable in families where adults use marijuana — and, in fact, the majority of Americans who say they use marijuana are parents (54 percent).
Again and again, the research shows that adults who have at least some experience with marijuana — whether they use it regularly or have simply tried it once — are much less likely to be concerned about its effects on themselves or others. This suggests that as weed becomes more widespread in the age of legalization, more Americans and their families will start to feel the same way.
Yet these changes are not without their challenges.
What’s clear from the Yahoo News/Marist Poll is that pot is now a bigger part of family life than ever before. Kids aren’t hiding it from their parents as much as they used to. Many parents aren’t even hiding it from their kids.
Already nearly half — 47 percent — of user parents (people who use the drug at least once or twice a year) say they have consumed marijuana in front of their (usually adult) children, shared it with them or done both. And more than one in four users say they’ve consumed marijuana in front of or with their own parents.
On the other hand, there is still a stigma attached to the practice. Seventy-nine percent of Americans say they would have less respect for a parent who uses marijuana in front of their child — and even among those who use the drug occasionally, 64 percent agree.
Fitting marijuana into your family life is, in short, complicated — as Michelle and Schuyler would be the first to admit.
Initially, Michelle had a commonplace reason for flying west: to visit her son at college. But then she realized her friend’s birthday was coming up, and a couple of additional invitations were extended. Someone mentioned marijuana. Ooh, Michelle thought, that could be nice. Before long, she was booking a “420-friendly” Airbnb and browsing nearby recreational marijuana shops on Yelp.
Michelle is hardly a pothead; she probably “smokes a couple of times a year,” she says, and only with friends. But Michelle did use more regularly as a teenager, and when Schuyler was born, she decided she would handle the drug differently than her own “strict Catholic Latino” parents had: She would be candid with Schuyler about her experiences and allow him to experiment too — within certain parameters.