Dope Dads

A Parent’s Guide To Getting High

Wondering about weed? You’re not alone. Plenty of parents take pleasure in pot — and are the happier for it. Here’s their secret.

Collage of two confused parents holding marijuana-related paraphernalia, on a background of marijuan...
Ariela Basson/Fatherly; Getty Images, Shutterstock

Even in states where recreational weed is legal, figuring out the best way to try it can be a bit of a head trip. But assuming there is another sober parent nearby in case of emergencies — the most important pot accessory of all — there are plenty of reasons to dabble. Cannabis may improve the quality of your sleep — or at least help you fight those late-night anxieties. It can strengthen your connection with your spouse by, among other things, making sex more enjoyable. And of course, it makes your kid’s leftovers taste infinitely better than they are.

Experts like Benjamin Caplan, M.D., a physician and founder of the Massachusetts-based CED Clinic, confirms that as long as it’s being consumed responsibly, cannabis can be a more favorable alternative to alcohol for stressed out parents who want to unwind. And contrary to stereotypes, a little weed here and there probably won’t turn you into a full-blown stoner, either. It might even make you a calmer, more present parent and partner.

“For some people, the stress of parenting is too much, and they turn to alcohol and cigarettes and other unhealthy choices,” Caplan says. Others turn to cannabis because it makes them feel better with fewer consequences, “and maybe they’re a better parent when they’re relaxed and calm.”

That doesn’t mean you’re baked out of your skull, and there is a “spectrum of nuance to cannabis consumption that is far away from being out-of-your-mind intoxicated,” Caplan says. “I think guided cannabis is different from willy-nilly, have-at-it cannabis.” That said, “willy-nilly cannabis” does sound like a fun strain of weed.

So give yourself the greenlight on the ganja (and maybe don’t call it the ganja). Beyond that, here is what to keep in mind before diving into your new interest.

Smoking, Vaping, Edibles, Or Tinctures?

Before we get right into it, the most important thing any pot parent needs is a lockbox to safely store their weed away from their kids. Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to find a simple lockbox at Lowes, Home Depot, or on Amazon for anywhere from $20 to $30.

Physician and cannabis researcher Evangelos Litinas, M.D., also recommends storing your locked up weed in a cool, dry, and dark area — and, depending on how old your children are, having a conversation with them about how marijuana is medicine for grown-ups.

Caplan concurs that destigmatizing weed as “parent medicine” makes it lose its “rebellious appeal,” so kids aren’t as eager to try it when they’re teenagers. But because we don’t know the effects of secondhand smoke on children, it’s best to consume weed out of sight — even if you aren’t smoking it.

Speaking of which, large cumbersome paraphernalia like glass bongs are not the best thing to keep around a house with young children for the same reason you wouldn’t let them play with a glass vase. It’s going to get broken, and now there’s bong water everywhere.

As a responsible consumer, you don’t have to worry about that mess because smoking anything is not recommended by physicians in general. Instead, vaping cannabis flowers can be a fast way to feel the effects of marijuana, and it does less damage to the lungs and airways than smoking. Compared to edibles, which can take hours to kick in, vaping takes only about 15 minutes or so to kick in, so it’s a more manageable high.

The other issue with edibles (beyond the fact they’re more enticing to children) is that the high depends on an individual’s metabolism, which varies from person to person. The effects are less predictable, and people often take too much out of impatience, and end up all too high as a result — sometimes into the next day.

The most optimal way to use weed is a happy medium between vaping and edibles: Enter weed tinctures, or liquids (often oil or alcohol) infused with cannabis and placed on the tongue as a tiny droplet. Taking about 15 minutes to activate, tinctures are relatively low-risk, Caplan says.

Carefully going one drop of oil at a time might not be the blunt that you imagined rolling up, but on the bright side, all that money you save on Febreze can be redirected to your snack budget. Plus, in 15 minutes you’re not going to care anyway.

Weed And Your Health

When you compare weed to any other substance, “cannabis is safer than regularly used medicine found in a cupboard day in and day out, let alone opiates and barbiturates,” Litinas says.

If the risks of occasional cannabis use are relatively low, then what’s with all the alarming studies that suggest it can cause cognitive problems, not to mention increase your risk for stroke and heart disease? Litinas and Caplan agree that there are a lot of scare tactics out there based on short-term studies, and there is no legitimate long-term data about the effects of using pot. That’s because it’s a Schedule 1 substance and illegal at a federal level, which makes research challenging. So it’s not that you should be afraid of weed; it’s just that it’s difficult to discern the overall risks.

Here’s what you need to know.

  • Cannabis should not be consumed by certain people — namely, people who are pregnant or breastfeeding, people with a family history of schizophrenia, and anyone under the age of 25 because their frontal lobes are still developing.
  • Everyday use is not a good idea. Habits are habits and unless it’s about exercise or eating more vegetables, it’s best not to pile on a new one. Just because it’s green, doesn’t make it broccoli.
  • Any use that gets in the way of parenting and work responsibilities, that’s another issue, known as Cannabis Use Disorder. As a dad, you don’t want that.
  • Health risks are frankly unknown. But assuming you’re using weed in moderation, more research needs to be done before any of us freak out about the health risks. Before you start conducting your own “research” in the garage, however, there are other concerns to consider outside of health problems.

Finding The Right Kind Of Weed For You

Before you walk into a dispensary, first change out of your college Bob Marley and The Wailers shirt (uncool, dad!). Second, know that you’re about to enter a world of marketing — and most of it is bullsh*t. Indicas? Sativas? Hybrids? There’s not much to the distinctions at the end of the day — no matter how much the red-eyed man behind the counter tells you otherwise. “There’s no such thing as strains,” Caplan says.

What he means is that because there is so much variation between cannabis products even down to different parts of the same plant, you’re never going to get the same “strain” twice, even if it’s from the same dispensary, from the same brand, in the same packaging.

Instead, strains are more of a “marketing heuristic,” Caplan says. And although indicas tend to be calming and sativas tend to be more activating, “there are also people who find the exciting plant flowers actually calming,” he says. “So it’s also a matching process between person and plant. You can have two people with the same ‘calming’ plant and have opposite effects.”

As easy as it is to pop into a dispensary, Caplan advises against relying on your local bud-tender for recommendations. Instead, apps like EO Care, of which he is a founder, can match parents with local clinicians who can make more guided recommendations via telehealth appointments. Caplan is also the author of the forthcoming book The Doctor-Approved Cannabis Handbook, which contains many resources for curious weed consumers. Litinas recommends physician Dustin Sulak’s free online cannabis dosage courses, including “Introduction to Cannabis.” If only they had that back in college.

The most important thing is take it easy. Here are some further beginner’s tips:

  1. If you haven’t had pot since that time at the Gorillaz concert in 2001 (boy, did they ever nail “Clint Eastwood,” man!), start with products like Delta-8 and weed with lower THC and higher CBD.
  2. Vapes and tinctures are your friend. These are the most dosage-friendly ways in. One puff or one drop, and wait 10 or 20 minutes. If you’d like a bit more, go for it. Just don’t do the equivalent of downing that glass of wine — with weed, you will come to regret it, maybe hours later.
  3. Watch out for dosages! This is especially true with edibles. Start with 2.5 to 5 milligrams and make sure you read packaging. Some gummies are going to start with a whopping 20 milligrams or higher — not beginner dosages.
  4. The golden rule when it comes to weed, no matter how you choose to consume it, is “start low and go slow,” Litinas says. Or as Caplan puts it, “think about cannabis like we might think about cutting hair: It’s easier to make adjustments later if you don’t proceed too quickly or too aggressively.”

Weed, Custody, Child Services, And Legal Rights

When it comes to your cannabis rights as an employee in any of the 21 states where recreational cannabis is legal, a growing number of employers are waiving drug screenings, and states like New York have banned such testing.

When it comes to cannabis rights as a parent, it’s trickier, and weed may not be the best way to cope with the stress of a contentious custody battle. That’s because in family court, so much is left up to the discretion of the judge. Although more liberal judges may view marijuana similarly to alcohol, “it’s still important to remember that federal law recognizes marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, which is in the same category as LSD and heroin. Since it’s under federal law, courts in different states take this into consideration,” warns Collen Clark, a Texas-based trial lawyer.

Obtaining a medical marijuana card and having cannabis prescribed from a trained physician can give parents some legal recourse, but in states like Texas where all cannabis is illegal, this is a non-starter. Likewise, in states like Michigan where weed is legal and the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA) states that a parent should not be denied custody as long as their use is compliant with the law, if the use arguably impacts the safety of the child, it can still be used against them in court.

When the safety of the child is paramount and an ex claims that consumption borders on abuse, any type of substance use “will be viewed as an issue, no matter which state a parent lives in. Cannabis is no exception,” Clark adds.

Even products with lower-THC (the main psychoactive compound in cannabis) like Dad Grass — a hemp-derived CBD flower with only 0.3% THC, whereas most weed has about 15% to 25% THC on average — caution against using their products if you have to pass a drug test.

For parents who aren’t going through a divorce, getting caught with weed in a state where it’s illegal can result in custodial issues as well. Particularly if the parent was driving under the influence, or if they were arrested in the presence of their children, the police may contact Child Protective Services.

But if grass is legal where you live, and you have an amicable co-parenting relationship, no need to pass on it.

Weed And Other People (Who Are Parents)

Here’s the thing about weed: It’s not always the most social of drugs. Alcohol? Always better to imbibe with others. Weed? Maybe it’s best with a movie marathon and pint of ice cream. This is made doubly true by the fact that some parents still aren’t down — at all. There’s still a stigma and some legitimate fears about being a parent who uses pot (especially when custody is a concern; see above). So keeping your pot use discrete is probably best for you, others, and, of course, your kids.

But here’s the thing: Chilling at home is exactly why pot can be great for parents. We’re tired. We don’t always want to drop $100 in babysitting just to go hang out with other parents and talk about how tired we are. A great movie with your partner, along with a little help to forget the stress of the week or a bad bedtime, is just what the doctor ordered sometimes.

And for family movie night? Let’s just say when we were forced to watch Minions: The Rise of Gru for the 10th time, we found a way to bring out the charm in that all but unwatchable movie. The kids enjoyed our newfound enjoyment. Bonding was had. No harm done.