Political decisions can be messy, and so as a business, unless they impact how we operate or our students, we tend to stay out of commenting on them. But a recent number of measures have passed, making us feel the need to address one major change in the US that we believe is here to stay: the legalization of recreational cannabis. Many states already offer legal medical marijuana, but a growing number of states are also legalizing recreational use. At the time of this blog post, 26 states and the District of Columbia have some form of legalized marijuana use with 3 more states coming on-board in the next few months—that is over HALF of the United States of America.
This blog isn’t to address whether it should be legal or not—the people have spoken in many states and I believe will continue to do so across the US until it legal nationwide. Instead, what I intend to address is how we as members of the in-home childcare industry should respond to that legalization.
For many years, and especially in recent years, the topic of addressing guns in the home has been a discussion point among caregivers. Some are uncomfortable addressing it, but the reality is if we are responsible for the care and safety of children, we have no choice but to address it. And now we are faced with that same responsibility about the use of cannabis. So how do we respond to that responsibility and keep the children in our care safe if there is cannabis in the home?
The first step: Educate yourself about your local laws. I am not here to tell you that you should or should not agree with the legalization of cannabis, but I am here to tell you that you need to understand how it is used in your state. Is it only medically legal? Is it recreationally legal? Is it legal at all? You need to understand the basics of legal use in your state so that you can decide whether you are comfortable working in a home where it is in use and for most people, they would not be comfortable working in a home where the use is illegal. Do some research, get educated and find out both what the local laws are and where your personal comfort zone is—for each of us that place of comfort is going to be a little bit different.
The second step: Educate yourself about cannabis. What? Many people balk at this idea, but the reality is the more we understand and familiarize ourselves with something, the less scary it is. Many people who grew up in the era of “marijuana is evil” do not actually know anything about it and so they have no idea, for example, that there are forms of cannabis legally available for sale around the country with absolutely no “psychotropic” effects at all, but with significant medical benefit. Lotions and salves that have no active THC (the part of the marijuana that makes you ‘high’) but have CBD (which has healing effects) that people use to help with sports injuries, other injuries and chronic pain. And byproducts of the cannabis plant are even on major super market chain shelves—hemp milk anyone?
While I am not downplaying the abuse that can occur with anything (food is one of the biggest addictive substances out there, for example, and it is legal), it is important to understand that there are many forms of cannabis with major beneficial properties.
The third step: Get comfortable talking about it. I was recently in the home of a client when legalized recreational marijuana use was passed in California. It provided an opportunity to discuss it right then and there with that client. She shared that the passage of it was a scary thing to her as a parent of young children. Those concerns are real to many people and we need to be able to discuss fears, legal usage and the protection of their children with employers. Bring it up in nanny forums, ask other caregivers how they are addressing it with current and potential employers, discuss it with friends and industry leaders. But get comfortable. Because you are going to have to address it at some point with employers, either current or future ones, and so you need to know how to ask “Do you have cannabis in the home?”. You need to be comfortable enough to ask other parents and other caregivers about it when your charges might be in their home.
Whether they use it for legal recreational or medical use (or both) is not your concern, but knowing if it is there IS your concern. Because if it is, you need to know about and take measures to ensure it does not end up in the hands of your charges or their friends, just like you would with guns or alcohol.
The fourth step: Educate yourself about cannabis safety in the home.
- Know where it is kept: it should be out of reach and out of sight.
- Know how it is stored: it should be in a properly labeled and locked container.
- Know what form it is kept in: is it an oil or leaf that is smoked or is it an edible that is consumed? In the case of accidental ingestion, this could be critical information for a medical provider.
- If it is an edible, what does it look like? You want to ensure that you know exactly what you are seeing if the child in your care should get a hold of it.
- Do the children, if they are old enough, have an understanding of it and know to never touch it? Do they know to bring it to your attention right away?
- Be prepared in case of an emergency: keep phone numbers to poison control and your local hospital handy; program them into your phone.
- Check out this video by Colorado Children’s hospital on signs of accidental exposure: https://www.childrenscolorado.org/conditions-and-advice/marijuana-what-parents-need-to-know/safety/
The final step: Share your knowledge with other caregivers and encourage them to educate themselves so they can discuss and address this with each other and their current or potential employers. The more we are talking about it, the more information can be shared and the lower the likelihood of an accidental ingestion by a child in our care.