Study: Kids Start Using Marijuana At A Younger Age When Their Parents Use

With a crying baby in one arm and a feisty toddler being wrangled by the other, a little something to take the edge off sounds great. The combination of parenting stress and legalization has led to more "marijuana moms" who choose to unwind with a joint or two. But kids whose moms use marijuana are more likely to use it themselves at a younger age, so parents should think carefully about when and how they indulge.

At first glance, moms and marijuana may not seem to mix. But when you take into consideration the many benefits that come with the substance — such as better sleep and less anxiety — it's easy to understand why moms would be drawn to it. With 29 states including Washington D.C. legalizing medical marijuana, more moms are turning to it for a little help, according to TODAY. These "marijuana moms" use to help them unwind and decompress.

With so many moms lighting up, it is important to know all of the implications of marijuana use on children. According to a recent study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, when mothers use marijuana while their children are 12 or younger, their children are more likely to start using it themselves at a younger age.

Researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health looked at data from 4,440 children and 2,586 mothers in order to determine the impact of maternal marijuana use between a child's birth and 12th birthday and the child's marijuana use, according to Science Daily. Roughly 67 percent of the mothers self-identified as marijuana users. The children of these mothers were at an increased risk of marijuana initiation — or first time use — prior to the age of 17, when compared to children of non-using moms.

The study's lead investigator Natasha A. Sokol, ScD, currently of the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Brown University School of Public Health, Providence, RI, explained to Science Daily that using earlier in life can lead to issues down the line:

Early initiation is one of the strongest predictors of the likelihood of experiencing health consequences from marijuana use ... Incorporating maternal cannabis use into our understanding of the important risk factors for early initiation may help us better identify at-risk youth for more tailored or intensive prevention strategies.

The potential subsequent use of marijuana by children could be part of why such a strong stigma remains around moms using marijuana. Writing for High Times, Jessica Delfino explored the social attitude towards marijuana moms, saying:

Mothers and women who use medical marijuana…are often put into a position in which they feel they have to explain themselves and what their condition is, and then steel themselves for the judgment that will inevitably follow.

This need for explanation is evident in the recent onslaught of shaming aimed at Kristen Bell when she confessed that she enjoys marijuana at home every once and a while. "I smoke around my husband and it doesn't seem to bother him. Weed rules," she said, according to E! News. "Once a week, if I am exhausted and we are about to sit down and watch 60 Minutes, why not?" Her admission was met with overwhelming criticism from her fans. People said things like, "Give up the weed for your kids' sake," and "Wow...I just lost all respect for her," according to E!.

Bell isn't the only celeb mom who has opened up about toking up. In 2014, Susan Sarandon told The Daily Beast that she partakes as well — just not around her children:

My attitude about marijuana or anything is, 'Don’t be stoned if you have to pretend you’re not,' so I’d never do drugs if I was taking care of my kids ... You want to be prepared and not have responsibilities. It does remind you of your space in the universe — your place in the universe — and reframe things for you. I think you can have some very profound experiences.

When it comes to children, the old adage monkey see, monkey do often rings true. So while I am a big fan of minding my own business and not judging how other moms choose to live their lives, I do believe that it is important for parents to know how their actions impact their children. Choosing to use, as Bell and Sarandon do, when kids aren't around may be the best choice.