Get help today 888-287-0471 or sign up for 24/7 text support.
American Addiction Centers National Rehabs Directory

Marijuana and Parenting


Twenty-nine states and Washington, D.C., have passed some form of legislation legalizing the use of marijuana. Of those, seven states and Washington, D.C., have expanded their laws to include recreational use. These regulations aren’t the only things changing in regard to the substance, however – CDC data suggest, “Middle-aged Americans are now slightly more likely to use marijuana than their teenage children.”

In 2014, the number of Americans between the ages of 12 and 17 who smoked marijuana fell by 10 percent since 2002 – to just 7.4 percent. With 8 percent of adults between the ages of 35 and 44 identifying themselves as regular smokers, it begs the question: How does marijuana impact their role as parents?

To learn more, we polled 1,000 Americans – half who smoked and half who didn’t – to understand the impact recreational marijuana use has on child rearing. From the way they approach substance use with their children to how they might respond in situations like drunk driving. Curious what effect marijuana might be having on parents across the country? Read on to learn more.

Redefining Expectations


With 3 in 10 parents admitting to smoking marijuana recreationally, we broke down the data further by gender, relationship, and even political affiliation.

Our research found some compelling differences between parents who were users and nonusers. Interestingly, nearly 59 percent of single parents recreationally used marijuana versus slightly over 41 percent of parents who were married. As well, more than 59 percent of single women reported using marijuana recreationally, while about 42 percent of single men said the same.

As for parents whose children knew they smoked recreational marijuana, 40 percent of baby boomers who identified as Democrat answered affirmatively. This was followed by nearly 29 percent of Gen Xers who identified as Democrat and almost 21 percent of millennials who were Republican.


U.S. laws on marijuana use change almost as quickly as public perception surrounding people who smoke. With use increasing across the country, more people are seemingly convinced marijuana won’t harm them. However, research has found long-term marijuana use can lead to breathing concerns, impaired memory, and a reduced cognitive capacity in adolescents. Marijuana use has also been linked to complications during and after pregnancy and an increased risk for brain and behavioral problems in children.

Overall, more than 54 percent of parents with some college credit but no degree reported using recreational marijuana compared to only around 39 percent of parents with a master’s degree. Concerning annual household income, over 61 percent of parents who made between $15,000 and $24,000 a year said they used marijuana recreationally. Recreational marijuana use dropped significantly, however, when it came to parents who earned between $150,000 and $199,000 annually.

Methods of Use


You don’t need to be a marijuana user to know there’s more than one way to feel the effects of consuming the narcotic. In reality, there are a few methods and some could be more dangerous for your body than others.

For some, marijuana by itself isn’t as effective as marijuana mixed with tobacco. Often referred to as a spliff or blunt, the addictive properties of tobacco can still be dangerous even in a diluted state. Research has found people who mix the two are more often likely to exhibit symptoms of dependence. Other options include pipes, joints (marijuana smoked on its own), vaporizers, and edibles, of which vaping may be the least detrimental to one’s health.

According to recreational marijuana users, nearly 64 percent of baby boomers preferred smoking joints, Gen Xers, and millennials both opted to smoke marijuana through a pipe. Millennials, specifically, were also more inclined to use marijuana through a vaporizer compared to other generations.

Cannabis and Children


In the showdown between parents who smoke and parents who don’t – some analysts have made the case that using pot provides parents with different experiences that can ultimately help in the role of parenthood. Still, if parents are smoking, vaping, or chowing down on edible marijuana, it probably shouldn’t come as much of a surprise when their kids start to do it too. Research has shown smoking pot at a young age can negatively impact brain development and experts recommend parents who use marijuana should be conscious of modeling appropriate behaviors and having open conversations with their children about the impact of drugs.

According to our survey, nearly 3 in 4 parents would rather their children use marijuana recreationally than alcohol. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), over 15 million American adults have an alcohol use disorder (AUD), and an estimated 88,000 die annually from alcohol-related causes.

Nearly 42 percent of nonusers admitted they would rather their kids drink than use marijuana compared to less than 10 percent of users. Republicans were also more inclined toward their children drinking than using recreational marijuana.

Finding the Support You Need

Whether you use recreational marijuana, it’s important to know and communicate the dangers of drug use to children as early and often as possible. Research has proven parents shouldn’t smoke around children, and that even small levels of THC (the psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana) can cause developmental issues in adolescents.

If you or someone you love has an alcohol or substance use disorder, you’re not alone. At ProjectKnow, we can help you understand the process of intervention, detox, and even the importance of rehab and aftercare during recovery. Recognize the warning signs associated with relapse before they occur and help your loved ones live their best life sober. To learn more or to find a local resource in your area, visit us at today.

Unsure where to start? Take Our Substance Abuse Self-Assessment

Take our free, 5-minute substance abuse self-assessment below if you think you or someone you love might be struggling with substance abuse. This evaluation consists of 11 yes or no questions that are designed to be used as an informational tool to assess the severity and probability of a substance use disorder. The test is free, confidential, and no personal information is needed to receive the result. Please be aware that this evaluation is not a substitute for advice from a medical doctor.


We collected 1000 responses from 500 parents who partake in recreational marijuana use and 500 parents who do not partake in recreational marijuana use from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Respondents who did not fall into these demographics were excluded from the survey.

The data we are presenting relies on self-report. No statistical testing was performed, so the claims listed above are based on means alone. As such, this content was purely exploratory.

Fair Use Statement

Do you think our findings on parents using recreational marijuana prove interesting? Do you have an opinion on the subject? Feel free to discuss and share this research for any noncommercial purposes. All we ask is that you’re sure to link back to the authors of this article.

Was this page helpful?
Thank you for your feedback.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is committed to delivering original, truthful, accurate, unbiased, and medically current information. We strive to create content that is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

Read our full editorial policy

While we are unable to respond to your feedback directly, we'll use this information to improve our online help.