Gwynne Ann Unruh is an award-winning reporter formerly of the Alamosa Valley Courier, an independent paper in southern Colorado. She covers the environment for The Paper.

With iterations of marijuana-like edibles, dabs and vapes, we’re a long way from the groovy, mellow weed of the ’60s and ’70s. The pros and cons of cannabis culture in America can be debated from a number of different perspectives. For example, should dispensaries welcome children? If we are going to allow kids in liquor stores, should they be welcomed in a cannabis dispensary?

Parents could be in for a long and complicated process in order to make their voices heard due to a lack of overall regulations and other complications tied to the distinction between medical/recreational marijuana sales and state/local policies. New Mexico’s Cannabis Regulatory Advisory Committee may provide them with some support.

Liquor Leads the Way

The advisory committee has voted unanimously that the state review draft rules issued by the Cannabis Control Division. They specifically recommended the state consider incorporation of a rule mirroring the Liquor Control Act, which permits children with their parents in liquor stores, and that children be allowed in dispensaries with their parents or guardians.

The committee is responsible for advising on the draft rules from the state Cannabis Control Division. The draft currently limits access to dispensaries to people who are 21 or older, or who are at least 18 and have a medical patient or primary caregiver card.

The committee has discussed the draft rule at length. One of the challenges the draft law identifies is that parents might currently be forced to get child care in order to access legal cannabis.

“My concern is mostly in line with people who cannot afford to have child care in order to buy legal cannabis and the medical patients who are currently accessing their medicine while bringing their children,” committee member Rachael Speegle said.

Verifying if a minor is actually with their parent or guardian could also be difficult for dispensaries to do.

Paul Haidle, deputy policy director at the City of Albuquerque’s legal department, told the committee, “It seems more straightforward to me to be able to verify someone’s age and date of birth, but it seems less straightforward to verify that someone is, in fact, with their guardian or parent.” He said, if the rule were to fall in line with the provision for liquor stores, the city “wouldn’t have any heartburn with it.”

The recommendations from the committee apply to existing medical and upcoming recreational cannabis dispensaries.

Parents and Pot

The reality of parenting in a marijuana-legal state can be complex. If parents teach their children that this is truly medicine, then will they learn to respect it as such? Holly Vause, a psychiatric nurse practitioner who teaches pediatric mental health at the University of Colorado College of Nursing, advises that parents should start having open and proactive discussions about marijuana early, preferably at the start of middle school.

Vause says that kids often fear parents will “freak out” over complicated issues like drug and alcohol use. To avoid a big emotional scene or consequences, many kids won’t tell their parents what is going on. Parents can protect themselves and their children by starting talks early, knowing the law and being proactive.

“There is wide variation in state and local policies around the nation that regulate the location and operation of dispensaries,” points out Sarah Clark, co-director of the Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, in a release. “The majority of parents feel strongly that they should give local input on decisions regarding where dispensaries may open and also support limitations on how close dispensaries could be to children’s areas.

“Most parents seem to understand that marijuana can have legitimate medical benefits, but parents have major concerns about the risks that medical marijuana dispensaries might pose to children,” Clark says.

The Children’s Hospital National Poll found the majority of parents believe (77 percent) that dispensaries should be subject to the same regulations imposed on liquor stores. However, 52 percent of parents believe that dispensaries should enjoy all of the same rights as any other business. Additionally, nine out of 10 respondents feel that dispensaries should undergo routine inspections.

Aside from impaired driving, the study found the leading concerns for parents included children finding edible cannabis candies and ingesting them (48 percent). Another 49 percent said they’re concerned about teenagers having easier access to cannabis products, and 45 percent believe dispensaries set a bad example for kids. Only 26 percent of surveyed parents opposed medical marijuana.

The Retail Reality

Since states started legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes and CBD became federally legalized in 2018, weed has slowly been creeping into retail’s mainstream. Nowadays, if you go into dispensaries around the country, you may be shocked. Many are a cross between an Apple store and a Nordstrom.

Get Bak’d in Oklahoma has arcade games in the waiting room, which are great for kids. Dads and moms can be seen waiting with their children at them. Everything is behind glass, and no consumption is allowed on premises.

Neiman Marcus sells $155 CBD oils, Barneys New York offers $1,100 hand-blown glass bongs and $1,400 weed grinders. A CBD skincare company, Seventh Sense, has stores in malls nationwide.

At this point kids can walk into a liquor store and in some cases have direct access to the nips. And you can pick up all kinds of opioids with your kids in tow at CVS. It’s better to educate our children than to leave it up to others to teach them.

The bottom line is, if the medical cannabis industry and patients want the stigma removed from this medicinal plant, then it begins with them to act accordingly. It would be much better if parents bring their kids inside versus staying in the car by themselves.