Need help figuring out adoption relationships? Schedule a complimentary consultation with Lori Holden, M.A.
Parenting: marijuana vs alcohol

Hashing it out on NBC: More on the Marijuana Talks

I had such fun writing my last post on talking with kids about pot, especially concocting the subheadings. But it had gotten past the length of one post, so here are some follow-on thoughts, specifically about comparing marijuana to alcohol.


Weeding out my thoughts

A few weeks ago I was interviewed about moms and kids and Colorado’s new marijuana laws by NBC’s Today Moms. The reporter was thoughtful and probing and brought up an aspect I hadn’t thought of before, a snag in my plan to simply equate using pot to drinking alcohol. Jacoba Urist asked:

Many of the moms I’ve spoken with have no problem drinking a glass wine in front of their child. But none of them would consider smoking a joint in front of them. Why do you think that is?

I had to puzzle that one out. Why would I never smoke a bowl in front of my children? I cannot fathom ever doing so. But why — why the immediate and viscerally strong reaction to that idea?

What would your answer to the reporter’s question be?

Parenting: marijuana vs alcohol

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

For me it’s not the taking-the-edge off aspect. The kids know I have a nightly glass of wine and that I relax a bit because of it. If they choose to do the same one day — imbibe in moderation when they’re of legal age — I will be okay with that.

So why not feel similarly comfortable using marijuana in front of them?

Two insights eventually came to me. The first is that when it comes to alcohol vs pot, the delivery method makes a difference. There is the smoking aspect: I hope my children choose never to smoke, never to bring toxic chemicals into their lungs. I would not model the opposite.

Feed your head

Another way to use cannabis is to ingest it. But I can’t see myself making magic brownies for my husband and me and eating them in front of the kids. Or hiding them and eating them in secret.

Secondly, many people in my generation have spent our entire lives thinking drugs were bad, illicit, dangerous (indeed, sometimes we did them for those reasons!). There is an emotional charge around using pot.

I admit I have it. My kids — will they have it when they are parenting? Who knows. Much like they are digital natives and I am a digital immigrant, Tessa and Reed are growing up in a very different world than I did. I would never smoke a bong in front of my kids because in the back of my head, programmed into me by societal osmosis, is the thought: drugs are bad. Don’t pass The Bad onto your kids, Lori.

But. Wine is good! Wine is French and Italian and brings gaiety and fosters friendship and complements food (hey, cheese — you’re beautiful!) and makes for funny quips on Twitter and Pinterest. For me, and for others who have spent years drinking responsibly and in moderation, wine has no aura of being forbidden.

So my answers to Jacoba’s question include the delivery method and a subconscious judgment I carry, likely a product of my time.

What do you think? How do you feel about drinking a glass of wine vs lighting up a joint in front of kiddos? How are the two similar or different?

Image of marijuana leaves courtesy of Paul /

Lori Holden, mom of a young adult daughter and a young adult son, writes from Denver. She was honored as an Angel in Adoption® by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

Find Lori’s books on her Amazon Author page, and catch episodes of Adoption: The Long View wherever you get your podcasts.

New Posts Delivered to You

36 Responses

  1. Conditioning! That’s all it is. But I think trying to liken smoking marijuana to drinking, even within the context of legalization, is going to fall a little flat, due to the prevalence of anti-(cigarette)smoking campaigns out there. I guess it depends on your ultimate aim – if you want your kids to be accepting of people smoking pot, comparing it to responsible alcohol consumption is the way to go. But you can’t logically be anti-cigarettes and pro-marijuana-smoking.

    Ingestion is a different story, I suppose. It doesn’t seem like most people are eating their marijuana, though. Maybe that will change?

    Nice job on the puns!

    1. As a grandma of 6, I think it pure hypocrisy, although I do enjoy a glass of wine with dinner. Hey, maybe I should get that new drug advertised on the radio. “Everyone likes to drink….”. It basically tells you to go ahead and get blasted…..all you have to do is take a pill to make it easier on your liver. Take a pill instead of taking responsibility. BTW–how do you smoke a bowl? Remember my age.

  2. I loved this post – personally, I never smoked marijuana (well, once and I didn’t care for it), and don’t like to get into debates about it. I understand the medical reasons behind it -and know people that it has truly helped.

    To compare having a glass of wine with smoking a joint in front of your kids “today” is crazy IMO. It has been proven marijuana in a young persons brain does damage. Not to mention the fact when/if they start smoking it without you – and buying it on the streets – who knows what it will be laced with!

    Unless there is some concern for alcoholism in your family, many parents will have a glass of wine to unwind – and let it be known – that wine is usually out of your system by the next morning (or sooner) – unlike the remnants of marijuana.

    Maybe we are being old-fashioned – but there is no way I agree with an open-invitation to smoking pot in front my kids. Can you imagine when they get caught in school – and the principal says – “What will your parents say?” and your child says – “Nothing, I got the pot from their canister!” 😉 Just saying….

  3. Oh wow. I never really thought about this…but you’re right. I was raised in the 70s and 80s where we were conditioned to believe that drugs were most certainly bad and something we just don’t do. And yet, I too enjoy wine and other yummy beverages and I do so right in front of my girls when I’m home. Would I smoke pot in front of them? Um, my first response is no. I’m all for the legalization, but no it’s not something I would do in front of them. I’ll have to think about this more to find out why these are so different in my mind…

  4. If you really think about it wine has become acceptable just like just like pot is going to be. If you really break it down and be really, really honest with ourselves should any of us be drinking? Of course we don’t want to give it up, but be really, really honest with ourselves. Alcohol isn’t good for us. I know the moderation comment comes in here but if we take a hard look at what the science says our wine, beer, etc has a number of negative effects. And then when you factor in the potential or DUI related accidents, crimes that are committed during intoxication, alcoholism, unwanted pregnancies tied to alcohol, etc maybe the argument isn’t why is wine okay and pot is not. Here we tell ourselves that “yes but wine has been proven to have healthy qualities.” That is true, but grape juice has those same qualities without the alcohol and if we want to be really, really honest none of us drink wine for the health benefits. This is hard stuff and something I’ve been thinking about for awhile. Would love to hear others comments.

  5. Wine for thought :). My mother drank two high-balls before dinner every night and a glass of wine during dinner. My husband asked me not too long ago, “You do know that most parents aren’t drinking that much before/during dinner every night?” Can you imagine if that was along with prescription drugs as well? No wonder she often left the table crying. Yikes.I wouldn’t have never made the comparison to smoking marijuana or the underage drinking like many of us were doing at that time. Somehow it made it more acceptable if a parent was doing it verses a child.

  6. You both make valid points. I write a lot about being a role model, more studies have proven we are the greatest influence on our children – both our good and not so good habits. So we truly need to walk the walk, and walk the talk. OTC (over the counter) drug use is a major issue with youth today because it is accessible, cheap and many times kids see their parents taking pills to overcome anxiety or to sleep – and believe maybe it will help them too.

    We truly need to be careful of our path today – we are living in a new generation where things could lead to dangerous consequences for our kids. Lead by example…. our kids are watching.

    1. It often seems like they’re not paying attention, but in reality, my kids seem to notice EVERYthing I do.

      (But they still can’t find anything in the fridge. Or their socks. Seems like only *I* notice those things.)

  7. I feel the same way about the smoking aspect but not the brownie idea. If pot were legal in my state, I would definitely be indulging in non-smoking delivery methods. I would probably make a few “grown up” brownies and a few “everybody” brownies and make clear to the kids which is which and why.
    Although, I would not use any drug (including alcohol) to a point that rendered me incapacitated to care properly for my kids–including driving them to the ER–if I were alone with them. And I am a total lightweight. So this is why I haven’t done much drinking since my kids were born. A glass of wine at Thanksgiving–in the company of plenty of sober, responsible adults (who can stay that way in spite of a glass of wine) is the best I can usually do.

  8. At least you’re having this debate in the context of minors. I’m having this debate regularly at work, and feeling ridiculously old. None of my twentysomething colleagues see anything wrong with pot. Here’s what’s wrong with it: it’s a drug, and it’s bad for brains. Is it worse than alcohol? Probably not. But it’s still bad for you. The bottom line is that society isn’t going to be better off because pot is legal. The science is clear: it has a negative impact (hie thee over to Pubmed if interested) on developing brains, in particular. Why would you ingest something that harms the brain in front of your kids? You model the behavior you want them to follow. Frankly, I have friends who are heavy drinkers, who have raised kids who are heavy drinkers, with DUI’s and all of the other negative baggage. They learned it at home. I don’t want my kids to be prescription drug addicts, I don’t want them to be alcoholics, I don’t want them to be potheads. I don’t want them to binge on Twinkies and Cheetos and weigh 400 pounds, either. I don’t dislike it because it’s illegal–I dislike it because the long term negative health consequences are clear. It doesn’t stop being a drug because it’s legal.

  9. Would you smoke a cigarette in front of your kid? I hope not. The effects of secondhand smoke are well-documented. I think the cigarette :: marijuana analogy is more apt than alcohol :: marijuana. And, actually, alcohol does have benefits which have also been well-documented.

    Just because something is legal doesn’t mean it’s right, or good. If I were Queen Dictator of the Universe, cigarettes would be banned, because I watched what happened to my mother after she smoked for more than 40 years, because of the effects her smoking have had on my health, and for so many other reasons. At least marijuana has some medicinal properties, and I’m all for alternative prescription drugs when the usual suspects don’t work.

    1. But banning something doesn’t mean people won’t do it anyway. To your point and to that of many others, decriminalizing marijuana just means that we will be devoting fewer law enforcement and justice system resources to catch people who choose to use anyway (like how we reversed Prohibition).

      Meaning we need to find new ways to have this discussion other than “it’s illegal.” Like focusing on the health effects (and knowing that the health argument will fall flat on some people at some points in their lives).

  10. Pot is still illegal in my mind even if it’s legal elsewhere. It also, mostly, involves smoking which I abhor. I would never encourage pot smoking. I don’t encourage alcohol compsumption either but I do it.

  11. The emotional charge around marijuana infuriates me because it has been scientifically shown to have medicinal benefits, important ones, in difficult pain management cases. The charge colors everything & prevents many from the relief they may get. The fact that medicinal pot can be ingested in chocolate, etc means you don’t have to smoke it. I have never had a problem with anyone smoking pot except when, like anything, it’s over done or part of an addicition. We cannot keep people from every addiction, whether it’s sugar or something else. For me, this is a simple subject some make overly complex with emotion. Alcohol is poison and has also been proven to create damage in great quantities. I applaud your bringing this topic into the sunshine.

  12. News Flash: Alcohol is a dangerous drug, much more dangerous than THC, and it can be inhaled without ‘smoking’ it, with a vaporizer.
    Alcohol-impaired driving is the most frequently committed violent crime in the U.S. On average someone is killed by a drunk driver every 40 minutes, and in 2007, nearly 13,000 people were killed in drunk driving related crashes.
    Each year, approximately half a million people are injured in crashes where police reported that alcohol was present—an average of one person injured approximately every minute. An estimated three of every 10 Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related traffic crash at some time in their lives. (NHTSA, 2001)
    Now add on to these numbers the millions of families and lives ruined or destroyed by alcohol addiction… Gee, I’m sure glad alcohol is legal!
    I haven’t heard of many medical uses for alcohol, but researchers worldwide are daily finding new medical uses for cannabis (THC.) In addition, I so rarely hear of deaths from marijuana use, especially compared to alcohol…

  13. With all due respect, I grew up as a child of alcoholic parents. I know there is a big difference between having a glass of wine to relax and drinking until you get belligerent and pass out. I don’t think it is appropriate to drink in front of children, ever. Because I lived that life, and let me tell you it sucked. There were many nights I cried myself to sleep, wondering if Mom had to have that drink to relax because of something I did. I also shudder to think what would have happened had there been a medical emergency with one of us kids after 5pm.

    I feel the same way about smoking pot. There is just no reason to do it in front of your children. If you want to get high, or have a glass of wine to relax, do it after they are sleeping.

    1. Good question. I do feel differently. I think it goes to my second point about values judgments people carry. Wine, to me, does seem more comfortable and discreet than using pot. Others may disagree.

      Trying to be more conscious of my own judgments.

  14. Hi Lori!

    I appreciate your thoughts and your courage to confront this controversial topic in parenthood. I do think it all boils down to culture and the norms we grew up with. My mom suffers from chronic pain – refuses to consider a cannabis relief (in any form) – but continually ingests pills that will eventually destroy her liver and end her life.

    I’m thankful that times are changing and the black-and-white thoughts on subjects in which we lack education might start to reveal a little more grey area (um, not necessarily in smoke, hahaha). I hope some of these new realizations will diffuse judgement and put the halt on prejudice.

    As far as edibles go, I haven’t actually made my way to the dispensary yet, but I’m thinking Swedish Fish. Which brings up our next subject: how to educate the children on NOT eating Nana’s candy, but that’s for another post!

  15. Cannabis has known healing and medicinal properties. As a future midwife I need to do research on the supposed effects of cannabis on the brain at various ages and if there are lasting detrimental effects (which I honestly believe there aren’t, but as I said I need to research). If the smoke is dangerous to lungs as cigarette smoke is (as second-hand) then of course I would not smoke it in front of my children. And most likely I wouldn’t be smoking it period unless I had a medical necessity for it. But if (as I believe) it does not have any detrimental effect on the lungs, then I would equate it to popping my usual pills or taking an herbal tincture in front of my kids. “This is mommy’s medicine to help with whatever – pain, nausea, etc.” I would teach them to take it responsibly as I take my oral medications or topical medications responsibly. Or as I would take an herbal tincture responsibly. Or as I might drink a small glass of wine responsibly. Red wine has medicinal properties, too, I hear. 😉

  16. I am meandering my way to a response. If you’re impatient skip to the final sentence. LOL
    Be well and imbibe within the safety of your own limitations.

    Cannabis sadly became a classified ‘drug’ quite odd for a plant with such healing attributes. Therefore Cannabis can only be purchased via a “marijuana” dispensary until the Pharma’s can find a way to market an artificial product at a highly inflated cost and use media to shove it down our throats til suddenly there is something wrong with all of us and we will need their version of artificial Cannabis.

    btw “Marijuana” is used deliberately to add stigma and allude to our North American citizens on Mexico. but I digress…..

    Alcohol is a socially acceptable means of altering our reality. Meant to be used with caution.
    As human beings we have thru the ages needed and found ways to alter our realities with plants, mushrooms and fermented goodies. It is only when people misuse anything it becomes an issue.

    Did you know ale / beer was once used as a food source aka Farmhouse Ales. Liquid bread.
    I drink wine and crafted ales and brews. I don’t always have it in the house. I don’t have a stocked bar of alcohol either. Maybe as a single mom one does not have the need for it? Men seems to crave having a bar set up with a variety of liquors etc….as my then 11 y.o. son pointed out to me upon observations at other people’s homes.

    To be concise: I raised my kids to think for themselves and understand anything they do has consequences. Also think about losing control of your judgement…leaving whom in charge of your decision making. You have to know what you edge is often by falling over that edge…..

  17. Overall, I refuse to listen to advice from anyone who hasn’t actually tried MJ recently… And one word of caution: edibles seem like nothing and then sneak up on you suddenly, and, in my case, made me very uncomfortable. Unlike taking one hit and waiting to see the effects, I think edibles are deceivingly attractive. I will never try them again… Be careful out there!

  18. Depending on where you live, one is illegal and the other is not. To us that is the main difference. But it doesn’t seem too realistic to think that if we didn’t drink in front of our children they would somehow never be exposed to alcohol. We are firm believers in being up front, especially with teens. Isn’t it better for them to see an example of responsible drinking than pretending it doesn’t exist? But we made it clear to them that is was not legal until they were of age (18 because we lived on St Croix in the USVI). We also believe that 18 is a better legal age, but that is a whole different debate.

  19. Parents think kids are dumb and don’t understand things Drinking a beer in front of your kids is the same thing as eating a pot brownie. Alcohol irritates the lining of the esophagus and stomach. It does damage. It also doesn’t get digested, it goes straight into the bloodstream causing damage to the liver and spleen. Pot also goes straight into the blood stream when it is ingested. Parents are the biggest influence in a child’s life. Every parent thinks peer pressure is going to get their kids to try pot or drinking. It’s not. Parents drinking or doing pot has a higher impact then other kids.

    1. There are lots of readily available substances that one should use with caution and full knowledge for the same reasons you state — sugar, GMO foods, processed foods, dyes, additives, etc. The key is to get kids to make conscious and well-informed decisions for themselves. Modeling is surely part of this.

  20. That is a really interesting question. I personally don’t think it’s right to be drinking a glass of wine or lighting up a joint in front of children every night, mainly because they are both types of drugs and it isn’t good for children to relate unwinding at the end of everyday with drinking alcohol or smoking cannabis.

    I don’t have an issue with drinking the odd glass of wine or smoking the odd joint, if that’s your thing, but both alcohol and cannabis can have negative affects on the body if abused over a length of time. I personally don’t want my children thinking that it is normal to be drinking a glass of wine or a can of beer or lighting up a joint every night.

    We mustn’t forget that both alcohol and cannabis are drugs and their usage can have both negative and positive affects, it is just that alcohol is more socially accepted than cannabis.

  21. Do you think we’re just conditioned to think it’s better to drink in front of kids? I personally wouldn’t want them to do either–a glass of red wine would be good–until they’re 25 and the cerebal cortex completely closes but uh I live in the real world.
    I think pot is a better choice but for one big reason–lungs. Both my Goddaughter and niece are fanatical about nothing going into their lungs. They drink–and the first time my Goddaughter her mother and I shared two bottles of wine with dinner was a trip. It felt so wrong, almost illegal, yet right.
    My BFF said it was the first time she saw her daughter as an adult. We stayed up until 4 in my yard telling her stories of our youth and her babyhood. There were a large group of us. Leftover hippies who had made it to the corporate world. We smoked–pot. Later they blamed it on me as I was the only one who didn’t have kids. I gave it up so they couldn’t anymore. I would still love to smoke pot once a week or so but am convinced it’s instant death by lungs–for me.
    When we told them the truth we found out they had always known. I kind of thought that. I don’t like eating it as it just makes me hungry and I really really don’t need that. Smoking never does. and none of us smoke cigarettes or have in a long time
    We used to worry they would become drug addicts. Not because of us but because in school they were taught never to take any drugs–which somehow they thought included Advil and the like. Once they found out they’re not bad for you what else would they think was good for them?

  22. Ooooh, it’s an interesting question. I guess, for me, I would be more comfortable drinking wine in front of the kids because wine has a non-getting-drunk place in ritual life. They know that wine is part of Shabbat, whereas there isn’t an equivalent for anything smoked. They don’t have a ritual association with tobacco or pot.

    That said, I rarely drink, period (maybe two drinks per year?). So the kids haven’t really seen me drink. I think that would be an interesting question: how many people drink in front of their kids?

  23. I would suggest that WHY do things is a powerful indicator of the appropriateness of doing them in front of our children.

    I consider a nightly glass a wine a way of “leaving the day behind” and actually returning to who I really am without the stress of the day dragging me down. I think demonstrating responsible consumption of alcohol is actually a positive lesson for my children. However, in my estimation, drug use is a manner of leaving behind WHO you are. It is an escape from self. And that is why I do not use drugs….and would never use them in front of my children.

  24. My husband and I just had a conversation about this very same thing. We drink in front of our children, but the thought of marijuna in our home is off-putting – even though we support the right of others to use it. I think for me a big part of it is the smoking aspect. We would never allow cigarettes in our house either and they are legal too. Another aspect is the newness legality of weed. It’s been illegal and off limits for so long I think it will take some time for it to seem okay.

  25. When I am next around please remind me to chat with you about making gourmet edibles recently and how conflicted I was with everything about the process despite it being legal.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

New Posts Delivered to You

Be the first to know about each new post. 

(Just a few each month.)