Generations of Hispanic families divided over marijuana

By Karina Geada

For the children of immigrant parents living in the United States, the debate surrounding the legalization of marijuana is forcing families to examine their traditional values and long-held prejudices associated with the drug. That involves not only parents trying to reconcile their upbringing with current social change in the face of marijuana laws, but also young Hispanics who will have to decide how they will educate their children on a subject considered taboo for much of the Spanish-speaking culture.

The gradual legalization of marijuana goes hand in hand with an evolution of social acceptance and the overcoming of traditional taboos, according to an unprecedented Yahoo News/Marist Poll. With the potential impact on Hispanic families, particularly the millennial children of immigrants, the study brings generational conflicts front and center, as well as issues of the blending of cultures, social norms and the very debate surrounding its decriminalization.

Our exclusive poll of 1,122 Americans 18 or older finds that the consumption of weed has stopped being a “sin” in most households; 52 percent of parents say they have tried marijuana at least once in their life, and consider its use less worrisome for their children than cigarette smoking, alcohol, sex or cheating on exams.

Young Hispanics tend to favor the legalization of the United States’ most popular drug. But although the Latin vote was decisive for approval of its recreational use in California and medicinal use in Florida, a majority of the country’s Latin population continues to oppose its legalization.

The legal consequences of possession and consumption of marijuana, the risks of addiction, the side effects, as well as the means to obtain it and the increase in delinquent behavior, are some of the concerns for Latin parents who are traditionally reticent about legalization.

Weed always generates contradictory opinions. For decades, the consumption of marijuana — much like any illegal drug — has been associated with crime, violence, gangs, drug trafficking and other negative consequences, all of which make a clash of cultures even more of a reality for the children of immigrants living in the United States.

The stigma assigned to marijuana is particularly highlighted when it refers to consumers in certain social groups and/or cultures, such as Latinos in unfavorable socioeconomic conditions.

“Weed & the American Family” reveals that 60 percent of parents who use marijuana at least once or twice a year say their children are aware of their consumption, and the majority of them (54 percent) have spoken openly with their kids about it.

At the same time, 72 percent of children at least 18 years of age who have tried marijuana say they have the approval of their parents.

Almost half (47 percent) of parents who consume weed say they have done so in front of their adult children, and have even joined them.

While the recreational use of marijuana continues to be the crux of the debate, many want its medicinal use to be legalized. In fact, the medicinal consumption of weed has reduced and delegitimized the drug’s stigma. And while some may argue that its benefits are exaggerated by its advocates, new laws will allow for researchers to better study its impacts and to understand how it affects our bodies.

Although all drugs have their potential risks, marijuana’s lethality is significantly lower than those of other recreational substances (such as alcohol, tobacco, heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, methamphetamine, amphetamine and methadone) and, by extension, occupies a fairly secondary position of concern for Latin parents.

For years, advocates for the decriminalization and medicinal use of marijuana have criticized the hypocritical position of a nation that allows the marketing and mass sales of alcohol and tobacco, while at the same time prohibiting marijuana.

First-generation U.S. Hispanics and their parents find themselves in a unique position, where conservative values and new social attitudes intersect at a cultural level. It remains to be seen whether the traditions of Latin families will evolve along with their children to form a new dynamic in their new country.


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