While anti-drug warriors across the United States continue to perpetuate the myth that youthful marijuana consumption is destined to bring about an uprising in chaos and debauchery, British billionaire Sir Richard Branson said recently that kids smoking pot should be considered a lesser evil than permitting them to venture out to have the experience on their own.
During his keynote speech on Tuesday at the Sage Summit at McCormick Place in Chicago, the founder of Virgin Group shocked an audience of thousands of shark-eyed business hopefuls by suggesting that they as parents would be better suited, in the grand scheme of trying to raise honest, responsible children, to get stoned with them rather than force them outside the home to smoke pot in a shroud of secrecy.
“If they’re going to have a joint, do it with them,” Branson said. “Don’t let them sneak off and do it on their own.”
In a typical response to pro-marijuana rhetoric in a setting where it is not necessarily the slated subject of interest, the Chicago Tribune reports that the crowd erupted in “awkward laughter” over Branson’s advice for bringing up kids with a solid moral fortitude. But all of the humor eventually subsided from the room when he began talking about his work with the Global Commission on Drugs and how it has been a struggle to get the majority to buy into the concept of drugs being “a health problem and not a criminal problem.”
It is not uncommon for Branson to emerge from his private island in the Caribbean, from time-to-time, to share his thoughts on drug reform. In fact, last year, the business mogul even went as far as to leaked an embargoed statement from the UN Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) demanding that world leaders decriminalize the possession of all drugs.
“My colleagues on the Global Commission on Drug Policy and I could not be more delighted, as I have stated in embargoed interviews for the likes of the BBC,” Branson wrote in a post for the Virgin website. “Together with countless other tireless advocates, I’ve for years argued that we should treat drug use as a health issue, not as a crime. While the vast majority of recreational drug users never experience any problems, people who struggle with drug addiction deserve access to treatment, not a prison cell.”
Unfortunately, his candid exposure of the document prompted to UNODC to make a full retreat on the issue after reportedly receiving some pressure from at least one nation.
In addition, earlier this year, Branson damned the worthless, circus sideshow that was UNGASS 2016, calling it a “missed opportunity” to make significant reforms to the international drug laws. “UNGASS was flawed from the start,” he said. “The process was a closed-door affair and excluded important voices from across the UN and civil society.”
But while Branson has certainly become a well-respected operative in the mission to change the worldwide view on drugs, is his latest suggestion of smoking pot with your children really the best idea?
Marijuana remains illegal for recreational use across most of the nation, and in states like Indiana and Kentucky, where total prohibition is the law, sharing a joint with your teenager could result in a wealth of unpleasantly, including criminal charges and a nasty encounter with Child Protective Services. As we have seen with nationally publicized cases, such as the one involving Minnesota’s marijuana mom, Angela Brown, all it takes is for someone to share your family secret with the wrong person for the shit to hit the fan.
However, even in the proper, legal environment, Branson’s idea of breaking bud with the progeny may take some time to catch on.
Last year, an article entitled “Why Smoking Weed With Your Parents Is the Ultimate Sign of Adulthood” explored what it was like for young adults to get stoned with their parental figures. Several of subjects told Mic that although the experience was “kinda uncomfortable,” at first, getting stoned with a parent seemed to open up a better line of communication and it made them feel as though they had finally been accepted as an adult. Yet, others said that while they were eager to smoke pot with a parent, they quickly learned they didn’t like it.
“When we start doing things with our parents that we also do with our friends, like smoking weed, it means that the existing parent/child dynamic changes,” wrote the author. “For better or worse, it means inviting our parents into our lives—and taking all the responsibility that comes with it.”
Photo of Branson with his mother by Getty Images