I have discovered my 14yr old son is smoking cannabis. He is a very difficult boy who has no concern over consequences. 

We always said we would have a zero tolerance approach to smoking and drugs and all our children are aware of this

We don't like the friends he has and know this is how it has started although we know our son needs little encouragement. 

I have also been told he has been looking in my bag for money, we haven't approached him about this as it would cause trouble for my other son (his twin)

Any advice on how to tackle this would be appreciated. 
Nick Holas

First of all, don’t panic. I myself started smoking cannabis aged 14. I smoked it all through my teenage years but still did well in education and went on to have a successful life, a good job etc. However it does pose a risk, particularly to kids who are already lacking motivation. I’m a father now and I have given some thought to how I will deal with this issue when my sons inevitably start smoking weed.

My parents also had a zero tolerance attitude to drugs. It didn’t stop me taking them. They didn’t know anything about drugs, having never used drugs themselves. This somewhat undermined their attempts to deal with the issue. Bear in mind that if you tell your kid that cannabis is extremely harmful, is the devil’s salad and is a gateway to hard drugs he will just laugh at you because he has already smoked it and concluded that there a few ill effects. He will know people who have smoked it for years but never go near any other drugs and certainly not the really serious ones i.e. heroin or crack. 

My advice would be to talk to him about it. Acknowledge that cannabis is relatively harmless and you realise nobody has ever died (directly) from it. But the real dangers are:

Kills your motivation, makes you lazy and unable to get on with the things you need to do to get where you want to be in life.

It is illegal - although society and the police tolerate it in general, you can still get a criminal record if you are caught with a fairly small amount, and if you are caught dealing it can be quite serious. Once you’ve got a criminal record it closes off a lot of jobs to you. I know one guy who wanted to work in social services but when he applied for a job aged 30 they turned him down because he failed the CRB check due to a cannabis related charge when he was 16 so they decided he could not work with vulnerable people. 

It can lead to mental health problems. It affects your mood and can make you anxious/depressed/paranoid. 

Can make it difficult to relate to people who don’t smoke cannabis, because they won’t be in your wavelength. Can make you quite withdrawn, depending on your personality. 

Has temporary effects on cognitive ability. Makes it hard to concentrate in class or to perform in exams. 

With the exception of some hippy chicks, most girls are not attracted to guys who stink of smoke, have red eyes, poor conversation and whose main focus is cannabis. 

It is a drug like any other. You shouldn’t be fooled into thinking because it seems harmless you can do it every day. If someone got up in the morning and chugged a beer, and drank several beers every day/night they would rightly be called an alcoholic, but people take the same approach with cannabis and don’t even consider it addiction because the drug seems so harmless. The effect is subtle and insidious. It is not physically addictive but it is psychologically addictive. 

In summary don’t come down like a ton of bricks or use scare stories because it won’t work and you won’t have any credibility, especially if you have no experience of drugs yourself. You just have to hope that you can get the message across that weed is something you should only do in moderation (like alcohol, junk food, whatever). 

Whether or not your son smokes it or not is not going to be down to your parenting.  It is ultimately going to be about whether he enjoys it and wants to do it. 

Thank you for such a comprehensive and honest answer. We may have already done the ton of bricks thing as he is such a promising athlete plus we do feel it can lead to the things. When the air has cleared we will try and talk to him. I may even show him parts of your message! I guess we feel we have failed as parents but your response that it's ultimately his choice to use it if he likes it is very reassuring. Thanks again.