How Weedmaps parents discuss their cannabis-related jobs with their children

By, Weedmaps

Anyone working in the cannabis industry knows the struggle of being taken seriously as a professional. There are endless stigmas and decades of stereotypes to overcome in the weed world, but the world is evolving and cannabis is no longer the taboo subject it once was.

For parents who are considering joining the cannabis workforce, it can be a daunting task to figure out the best way to approach a career in cannabis while also raising a family. Weedmaps makes a concerted effort to offer a family-friendly workplace. Just as many professional workplaces employ parents, Weedmaps wants to make sure the cannabis industry is inclusive of employees from all walks of life, including those who are balancing career and family.

We asked some of our employees how they’ve navigated the tricky waters of discussing cannabis with their young children or teenagers. They shared with us how they’ve approached the topic with their families, and how supportive Weedmaps has been in their journey.

Managing the reactions of friends and family

Any new career path comes with a new set of concerns about the future. For many Weedmapers, a career pivot to cannabis was an exciting new venture, but not without obstacles. Peter Fisher, Engineering Manager, shared his concerns about how he would be perceived by family and friends.

“At first I was a little bit worried about telling everyone because I was like, ‘Oh, they’re going to judge me.’ And it is true. Totally, some people judge you,” he admitted. “But I found most people actually are really curious, they’re really interested. … A lot of people will come to me with questions, people in my family, very close friends and their families. And so yeah, for me it hasn’t been too bad and I will just continue to be very open about it because from my perspective, it’s not really a bad thing.”

For Jackie Gonzalez-Becerra, Group Manager of Demand Generation, when she was starting to date her new beau as a then-new executive assistant at Weedmaps, she was apprehensive to disclose her cannabis use. “I’ve dated guys that were super turned off by it, you know? And I didn’t want that to be a deciding factor.” Both she and her eventual spouse hid their cannabis use from one another in the beginning. “We chatted for five weeks before we met in person. And we both hid our cannabis use from each other,” she noted. “Our first date where he’s like, ‘You know, I have something to tell you, these businesses I’m involved in, they’re actually marijuana businesses.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I smoke weed every day. Like, thank God. I’m so happy.’ And it was one of the strongest things that bonded us, for sure.”

Maddy Castillo, a senior member of the People Operations team, considered hiding her cannabis use from her family and prospective employers, but ultimately decided to use her privilege to help break the stigma. “I made the deliberate, conscious decision to be open with employers about my marijuana use and advocacy in [the year] 2000,” she explained. “Note that I had the luxury of appearing to be white — I’m half-Mexican, actually — and enjoying the privilege that accompanies fair skin, being in liberal San Francisco, being in free-spirited, maverick-style high-tech startups, and being in HR — really, who was going to get me in trouble?” she says jokingly. “I don’t want to perpetuate the erroneous belief that you can’t imbibe and be professional. I wanted to demonstrate that you can do and be both,” she said.

For Dmitry Skakovski, Lead Engineer, he was coming from a very different background. “I worked very hard at a digital forensics company. … So everything is very serious and very heavy.” He began looking for a career path that was on the lighter side and found Weedmaps. “You know this show, ‘Breaking Bad?’ They said that Dmitry broke bad. Some of my previous colleagues unfriended me on Facebook when I started to work at [Weedmaps].”

While he may have lost a few Facebook friends and former colleagues, Skakovski gained newfound support from his new employers and colleagues at Weedmaps. “My wife, she was fighting cancer and I saw that cannabis helps her to sleep [even] in moderate pain. … Since I started to work at Weedmaps, I found it an incredibly supportive place.”

Skakovski noticed a remarkable difference between his old and new workplace. “At the previous company, they knew that my spouse is fighting this disease. But the company … didn’t support me as Weedmaps did. Weedmaps is incredible.”

Talking to your kids about cannabis

Weedmaps parents have children from newborns to impressionable teens. Some common themes run clear: Be open and honest, answer all of their questions truthfully, and use this opportunity to break down the stigma of cannabis use.

Charles King, Staff Engineer, made a conscious decision to be open with his children about his profession, and even went a step further into destigmatizing cannabis among his children’s teachers and other parents. “We weren’t going to hide from it. It’s not something we’re ashamed about, so we kind of wanted to make sure that we didn’t pass on some feeling that this is something that needs to be hidden to the kids, so like, ‘Why did dad change his shirt when they went to the PTA conference?’, that kind of thing, that would just reinforce some kind of stigma.”

Gonzalez-Becerra is a first-time mother, but she and her 420-friendly husband have already discussed how to broach the topic of cannabis with their baby girl when the time comes. “We’re going to be super-honest with her. ‘You can do it, but there are risks and you should wait. If you’re going to do it, then do it with us only, or do it in these ways,’” she explained. “I feel like there’s always this mentality of, ‘If it’s normalized the kids aren’t interested.’” She continued, “Especially being our kids. It’s going to be really important for us to tell her the science about how your brain develops and how cannabis interacts with your body, and how important it is to wait for the right time and to enjoy it responsibly.”

Aaron Alexander, Senior iOS Developer, was concerned about the pressure his teenager may receive as a result of his profession and position in the cannabis industry. “I think my high-schooler understands. He’s not super interested in it. … One fear I have is that his friends may think that it’s cool or he may have extra peer pressure because of where I work. Just like, if you had a parent that was a professional motocross rider or something,” Alexander laughed at his fear of being the too-cool dad.

Brian Clark, Product Designer, also considers himself a “chill dad,” and has already discussed cannabis with his three kids, all younger than 10. “I tell them, when you are an adult you can try it if you want. I treat it similar to beer, letting them know why it’s harmful to kids and temporarily off-limits to them. When you outright forbid things from people, you electro-magnetize and create a deepened attraction and curiosity to it. Rather than doing that, I choose to be honest and trust that they can make responsible decisions when the times come,” Clark said. “One concept I have used is to never use cannabis slang around them. Words like lighter, bong, and weed. Instead I replace them with other common words. For example I use the term ‘tea’ instead of ‘weed.’ Kids are impressionable and tend to shadow every behavior their parents do, so naturally he wants to know why daddy always has his tea. To keep the conversation from reoccurring, you must give them answers. So I let him know how cannabis makes me feel and let him know when he is an adult, we can try it together if he wants. That seemed to pacify him,” he said.

Devin Ryan, Regional Marketing Manager, is another chill dad with two little ones who have grown up with Weedmaps as a part of their lives. “Both have been seeing and saying the word ‘Weedmaps’ since they were one and two. Fast forward to now and simply both will tell you, ‘My Dad helps people find medicine.’ When asked what kind of medicine, they will say ‘cannabis.’”

Ryan uses his knowledge of cannabis to keep his friends and neighbors informed. “I do enjoy sharing the knowledge and helping to do my part in ‘normalizing.’ I have become a popular neighbor in the ’hood.”

Breaking the stigma around cannabis

Being in the cannabis industry is so much more than a fun, friendly stoner culture. Working in the cannabis industry means actively working every day to reverse the impact of the war on drugs, and to improve the decades-long racial inequality that has disproportionately affected Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) communities.

Castillo’s son has grown enough that he has started to ask about her job at Weedmaps, and she emphasized the positive social aspects of Weedmaps. “My son, he’s begun to ask. We are very open about the medical, health, and even (responsible) recreational benefits; we’ve talked about civic benefits (tax revenue, reduced crime); but we focus more on the social justice impact. Because kids get that — they understand inequality and racism. [My son] is proud of my tiny contributions to decriminalization and ending the war on drugs.”

Ryan wanted to encourage prospective entrants into the cannabis industry to consider the big picture and overarching positive impact of cannabis legalization. “Time to wake up and smell the plant for what it is, medicine. … Aside from what most think about the plant “it gets you high” some are starting to wake up and see the big picture. It can help grow investment opportunities, stimulate many jobs, provide tax revenue when planned properly, other parts of the plant can be used for resources like clothes or building supplies, all while helping the fight against cancer, epilepsy, anxiety and so much more.”

Castillo continued with her own advice for anyone thinking about joining the cannabis industry. “Normalize cannabis. The industry is growing, legal and legitimate — no different from real estate or biotech. We’re not a bunch of lazy, uneducated stoners. We’re a group of whip-smart, highly-educated, talented innovators and problem-solvers. Look at our offices, our workforce, our global reach — we’re one hell of a real business.”

Employees at Weedmaps come from all walks of life. They are parents and professionals and are also some of the most passionate employees on the planet. Working for Weedmaps means working in an ever-changing environment with similarly open-minded individuals who are fighting for a greater mission and breaking the negative stigma surrounding cannabis culture.

These individuals prove that you can be passionate about cannabis and still maintain a professional work and family life balance. If anything, Weedmaps parents are raising a new generation of educated and knowledgeable young children and teens in a world that is quickly evolving when it comes to weed.

If you’re curious about entering the exciting world of weed, check out cannabis careers at Weedmaps and start your journey.

Weedmaps is a community where businesses and consumers can search and discover #cannabis products.