What do you do if your husband wants to smoke pot?
That may feel out of left field, but increasingly I’m having readers write in with that question. Marijuana is legal in many jurisdictions now–Europe; Canada; many individual states. So I thought it was time that we actually talked about it.
I asked Joanna, who works for me and who has a Masters in Public Health, to take a stab at this one today. What are you to do if your husband announces to you that he intends on starting to use pot? Here’s Joanna:
I’m a public health nerd and epidemiologist by training, which is a field where we talk a LOT about risk. I’ve written this guide mostly to inform you of the various risks associated with using pot. That way, you and your spouse can begin making a decision that is best for you both. For more information about pot and its health effects, the Government of Canada has put together a variety of excellent guides. This post is meant to be a conversation starter, not to be the be-all and end-all guide.
Here we go!
1. Tell your spouse how you feel
If your husband or wife comes to you and says they are going to start using pot and you are uncomfortable with that, ideally they should submit to your opinion and avoid using marijuana. And let me state upfront here--you have a right to an opinion. You absolutely do! And because you’re married, your opinion should matter to your spouse.
I’m personally very wary of motorcycles and I’ve asked my husband not to ride them. He understands why I’m concerned – my dad was nearly killed when he was hit by a car while riding a bicycle – and has happily acquiesced. But maybe your spouse is, unfortunately, not so understanding. Then you will need to lay out some ground rules and boundaries to protect you, your spouse, and any children you may have at home with you.
2. If your spouse will not listen to your concerns, consider counselling
This actually is relevant whether the conflict is about marijuana use, motorcycle riding, investing choices, or any other major decision. If your spouse is stonewalling you, refuses to see your point of view, or is manipulative as you make decisions, it is time to seek help. You AND your spouse need to make decisions together – that’s the blessing of Christian marriage, being able to confirm to one another what the best course of action is.
3. Make your spouse bear the repercussions for the pot use
Marijuana stinks. Literally. The smell gets everywhere, and it’s quite unmistakable. For that reason, if your spouse uses pot, he (or she) will smell like it.
It’s quite okay to insist that that smell stay away from you, and that your spouse has to deal with it. Refuse to let them near you until they have showered, brushed their teeth, and done everything to get rid of the smell. Insist that every item of clothing that they were wearing stay out in the garage or in a garbage bag until it is laundered–and you can refuse to do that laundry. Refuse to go anywhere with your husband if he is high (and please, never get in a car with your spouse driving if your spouse is high). A good principle in the Bible is that a person should reap what they sow. That’s how God made it so that we would learn! Sheila talked about this principle a lot in her book 9 Thoughts That Can Change a Marriage. If he is not listening to your concerns, then he should be isolated when he is using marijuana, because he is breaking intimacy and oneness.
Are you PeaceKEEPING or PeaceMAKING?
4. Understand that there are legitimate, medicinal uses for marijuana
Nevertheless, remember: while there are no medical benefits to using tobacco, pot just isn’t the same. My husband and I have a relative who uses medical marijuana oil to treat her once crippling insomnia. It has made a huge difference in her quality of life. For someone with a health condition for which medical cannabinoids can be a treatment, they can be a huge help. If your spouse has a prescription from a medical doctor for medical marijuana, it is very different from recreational use. If your spouse wants to use pot for “medicinal purposes” but does not have a prescription, that’s very different (and technically, without a prescription, it’s still recreational use).
5. Make sure your spouse knows that using marijuana recreationally is not safe
People tend to think marijuana use is completely safe, especially compared to alcohol. However, as we’re going to show, that’s not actually true. Marijuana may not be as addictive as alcohol, but it still is addictive, and there are other, quite serious health risks associated with it. The fact that people believe that it’s perfectly safe, though, probably accounts for so many people using it. Keith, a pediatrician, just told me about a conference he went to in pediatrics which showed that pot use is inversely related to its perceived risks. The more risky people think it is, the less people use it. Right now, many, many people are using it because everyone thinks it’s safe. But it’s not.
Pot use will never be safe. Neither will drinking alcohol, or even driving.
But if your spouse wants to use marijuana, and is going to, even if you ask them not to, then the question becomes: “How can I reduce the risk?”
Let me give you a concrete example of how a behavior that is always somewhat risky can be more or less dangerous depending upon the circumstances. My husband and I took a roadtrip in the summer of 2017. I was newly pregnant with our daughter and we were on our way to hike and cave through the Black Hills of South Dakota. We were driving through rural Wyoming at night, in a cellular dead zone, when a thunderstorm rolled in. It was terrifying and beautiful. Somehow, though, the strange weather made the many mule deer in the area particularly active. My husband swerved once to avoid a deer and then we slowed to a crawl, weaving around the hundred plus deer we saw on the road that night. It was a dangerous situation and our risk of an accident that night was far higher than it was during our twenty minute drive to church last Sunday morning, in bright sunny spring weather.
While we were driving through Wyoming, we had to keep driving as there was nowhere to stop. However, we did reduce our risk of an accident by slowing down. There are health risks to pot use, but there are ways you can reduce those risks.
If your spouse insists on using marijuana recreationally, let’s talk risk reduction!
6. Marijuana risk reduction step: Insist that marijuana be kept away from children
It’s terrifically important that kids not be exposed to marijuana. If your husband decides he is going to use pot and won’t listen to you, it is perfectly fair for you to insist that he only use it out of the house, especially if you have children. Children can become high from secondhand pot smoke. Additionally, it is very easy for a child to mistake a pot edible for regular baked goods.
If your spouse doesn’t seem to care, you can consider removing the children (and yourself) from the house when he’s using pot.
Also, your ability to be a parent at all may also be at risk. According to a 2018 study, men who use pot also show differences in their sperm when compared to men who don’t use pot, though the effect of these epigenetic differences has not been studied. It could very well be, though, that marijuana use does reduce fertility. Talk to your husband about this, because he may not be aware of it. In fact, he may not be aware of any of these health risks, since we so rarely talk about them:
7. Marijuana risk reduction step: tell your spouse about health risks associated with pot
Inhaling marijuana smoke can cause lung damage, much like tobacco smoke can. I’m not yet 30, but I remember the days of smoking sections in restaurants and, while I was in college, I often got caught walking behind a student who was smoking on his or her way to class. Never fun!
8. Marijuana risk reduction step: tell your husband to protect his brain and mental health
Using pot before the brain has completed its development is associated with a number of increased risks, including higher rates of mental health problems and higher rates of addiction. It can also impair normal brain development and can even affect learning and memory.
It’s long been known that pot use is one of the biggest risk factors for developing schizophrenia and other forms of psychosis, especially among men. Here’s how they think it works: some people are highly predisposed to developing schizophrenia, but they go through life and they’re actually fine and it never manifests. But those same people, if they smoked marijuana when they were young, would trigger the onset of the disease which otherwise they would never have displayed. Young males are at the biggest risk for that, and for that reason the Canadian government recommends delaying the start of pot use until after the age of 25, when the brain is fully developed.
Pot can also cause new or worsening mental health problems, including depression and anxiety. Even though people think that marijuana helps you feel less anxious, in the long run it seems to have the opposite effect, making anxiety and depression worse. If your spouse intends to use pot, make sure both of you are keeping an eye on their mental health.
Now that marijuana is legal in so many places, what do you do if your spouse wants to use pot–and you’re opposed? Here are 10 things to consider!
9. Marijuana risk reduction step: be aware of pot addiction
Approximately one in ten people who use pot will become dependent upon it. The risk of dependence goes up if marijuana use was started in adolescence or young adulthood. Not just that, but marijuana can become a “gateway drug” the younger people start using it, meaning that if they use pot, they’re more likely to try other, more highly addictive drugs.
10. Marijuana risk reduction step: educate yourselves on pot’s legal status in your area
While pot is legal in many US states and in Canada, it remains criminalized in many places. Even if you live in an area where pot is legal, the length of time between using pot and being able to drive safely can be very long. The breathalyzer tests currently used for marijuana are significantly less able to discern sobriety than those used for alcohol. Ensure that you understand the laws regarding pot in your area, especially as it relates to your work and to driving or operating heavy machinery. And, please, never, ever drive while being impaired. Please.
There you have it – 10 tips for navigating marijuana use in your marriage. It’s hard to navigate when one spouse wants to do something the other considers morally wrong or dangerous, but I hope that this at least gets you started in the right direction.
Let me know–has this ever been an issue in your family or friend group? Or how did you and your spouse handle making decisions when you disagreed? Let me know in the comments!