Advice Needed: What to Do About Drugs at the Playground?

Hi rnnirsnbhf
Readers — Just got this letter today and what’s cool is that the writer, Aaron, is asking for
your input, not just mine. That’s good because I don’t have a lot of advice for this fellow, except, “Alert the police.” So — let’s see what other great ideas are out there! — L.

Dear Lenore:   I am interested in your advice and the advice of other Free-Range Kids readers about a situation we appear to be having. The area I live in is decidedly suburban and middle class (suburban DC actually), and I’ve never for a moment felt unsafe here, so it’s not like there are junkies lying about in doorways and on the streets. I have no doubt there are drugs around just like anywhere else, but I did not expect them on my apartment playground.

Now, I am fortunate that the back door of my apartment unit opens directly into a small playground, and my kids (6 and 4) are almost always out there playing, most of the time while we stay in and do other things. Last night, early evening, the kids went out to play, and my wife noticed some teenagers acting suspiciously, and so she went out to see what was going on. These kids were smoking something (and no, we don’t know that it was drugs, but tellingly, my 6 year old said they had a “trophy,” so you can guess what that was), and left in an awful hurry after she arrived.

My concern is what this little incident is capable of doing to an otherwise safe and secure community. For obvious reasons, I don’t want my kids to be exposed to open illegal drug use, and I certainly am not keen on them stumbling across dangerous paraphernalia. On the other hand, I don’t want to curtail my kids’ freedom to be kids just because some knuckleheads can’t find a basement to use instead of my playground. I neither want to stand out there every moment my kids are playing nor want to keep them indoors out of fear.

So far, we’ve contacted the apartment management, and submitted a written statement. We’ve also talked to a few of the neighbors about it. I am also considering printing big signs that say things like “No Drugs” and “We’re Watching” as a psychological measure.

Is there anything else you recommend? I understand that the power of community is that people can band together to keep stuff like this out, but I’m not sure we’re at that level yet.

Any advice you have would be most welcome, and if you see fit to ask the greater Free-Range Kids community, I will eagerly await their responses. — Aaron

Me too! — Lenore

, ,

103 Responses to Advice Needed: What to Do About Drugs at the Playground?

  1. Lin July 12, 2010 at 3:23 am #

    I like the idea of putting up signs! Maybe something like ‘Drug-Free Zone – Children Play Here!’

    I remember what it was like to be a teenager, and even though I wasn’t using drugs, it is really hard to find a spot to hang out with your friends. No one’s parents want you in their house (I remember my brother and his friends eating 2 loaves of bread and an entire box of pizza pops one night), and everywhere else costs money to hang out (bowling, arcade, restaurant, etc). So instead of just always chasing the teens out, try to keep an eye on what they are actually doing and only bring it up if they are using drugs.

  2. Anthony Hernandez July 12, 2010 at 3:30 am #

    Chancs are that it’s just marijuana, whose biggest negative health effect is its illegality. Consider that pot has NO known overdose amount, unlike the caffiene or alcohol most of us quaff without a second thought.

    In my never-humble opinion, making a big stink by talking to the apartment management and posting signs is just the kind of histrionics that makes life so damned miserable for us Free Range parents. Why not simply go up to the kids and talk to them? Seriously, when did talking to another human being without hiding behind someone else’s skirts (be it the manager’s, a cop’s, etc.) become so fashionable?

    WIthout being judgmental or accusatory, just tell the teens that litlte children use the playground and should not have ot breathe their smoke, whatever flavor it is. Ask them to take it indoors or someplace else private.

    If they do it again, talk to them again. If it happens a third time, find their parents. If a fourth, THEN talk to the apartment managers. If that still does not do it, THEN talk to the police. It’s called the chain of command and it’s also called using the minimum amount of fuss to get the results you need. It’s not nearly as much fun as a Chicken Little routine, but it is a lot more effective… and it also respects the other kids’ rights to free-range just as much as you want society to respect your own free-range rights.

    Of course, the above assumes that they are smoking tobacco and/or pot. If, however, they are doing any kind of hard drugs, that is a completely different matter becaue those drugs do have bad health effects and can also create a clear and exigent threat to people near the users.

    But pot? Yawn. It makes them happy and hungry. OH MY GOD, THE HORROR!!

  3. Juliet Robertson July 12, 2010 at 3:31 am #

    It’s often handy to know if this is a one off incident or a repeat event. The chances are that the teenagers will not return if this was their first time and you popped up.

    When schools ask me about dealing with “out of hours” visitors to the school grounds – something that legally schools cannot stop from happening in Scotland, one of the most effective ways is to have signs written and coloured in and illustrated by children, laminated and put up.

    You don’t need lots and they don’t need to have a moral message. Signs that say “This is my favourite place in the park” near the swing and “Please put your litter in a bin” can often be more effective as it tells everyone that this is a place for children which they value.

    I’d also encourage your children to let you know if the teenagers turn up again. A confrontation may not be necessary but the act of an adult or two (for support, witness, etc) then coming out to play with children will perhaps be off-putting.

    Alas I have no solutions but a couple of ideas. I’m sure others will have many more and you’ll be able to pick and mix!

  4. Paul July 12, 2010 at 3:35 am #

    I like the idea of a “we’re watching” sign, but I think you should be out and more visible for a while until they get the message that it’s true or else the sign will be ignored. Your kids are probably used to being independent now enough that you’re popping out to say hi a couple of times an hour for the next week or two probably won’t crimp their style but it will give you a chance to give those teenagers that this playground isn’t the most discreet place to light up.

  5. Angie July 12, 2010 at 3:36 am #

    Teenagers who’ll smoke pot out in the open aren’t going to pay any attention to signs, and in fact might well get a kick out of smoking their pott right under said signs. [wry smile]

    My first thought is that if you (and other parents in your building) could make yourselves enough of a nuisance by wandering out at random intervals, it’ll become clear to the teenagers soon enough that this isn’t a quiet place where they can do whatever, that adults might pop up any time. Make the playground a less attractive pot-smoking spot, at least in the daytime when your kids are there, and the teenagers will likey go find themselves a basement or whatever.

    I do agree with Lin that if they’re not doing anything wrong, they should be welcome, or at least left alone. A smile and wave, or a “Hey, kids,” when you see them should come across as friendly, and at the same time let them know that you do notice them in case they should contemplate drugs or whatever.

    Good luck!


  6. bushidoka July 12, 2010 at 3:44 am #

    No, actually, I cannot imagine what the trophy was. Please elaborate.

    I live in a high drug use neighbourhood, and never, ever, ever fear for my kids safety. But we do try to educate them on one thing – syringes. We have one here at home that we use to remind the boys what a syringe looks like, and what they should do if they ever see one – contact an adult immediately, and DO NOT TOUCH IT BECAUSE IT CAN MAKE YOU VERY SICK!

  7. decemberbaby July 12, 2010 at 3:51 am #

    I have to say that I agree with Anthony. If they’re smoking pot, a simple conversation should suffice.

    You: hey guys, just wanted to remind you that there are kids playing here and smoking up isn’t something most parents want their kids exposed to. D’you think you could take it somewhere else? Thanks.

    Them: oh, yeah, sorry.

    I really think they’ll be receptive if you frame it as them helping to keep the park kid-friendly. I’ve had similar conversations with teenagers, albeit not about drugs, and they’ve always responded positively and even started to monitor one another’s behaviour.

  8. Sue July 12, 2010 at 3:54 am #

    I don’t think that you can conclude drug use on first contact. Your best bet at this point is to watch and to wait, see what happens. If that means looking out the window or popping out every now and then, or even having one of your kids come tell you if the teens come back, so be it. If they do show up again, go out, say hi, be friendly and see what happens. Teens are bizarre creatures, to say the very least. You never know quite what sort you’re gonna find, but, at the end of the day, no matter how odd, they’re all human. Mostly 😛 If you go out, maybe take a couple of sodas as a friendly offering? The idea is not to treat them as potential threats but as potential friends. You’re far less likely to spook them and may even find that you’ve got a coupla decent young folks who’re just looking for somewhere quiet to hang out.

    I’ve had a fair bit of experience with all sorts of teens, and you find that whilst there’s some who are complete arses, the majority are ok if you can find some common ground and try to avoid leaping to the usual, stereotyped conclusions about them.

  9. Aaron Helton July 12, 2010 at 3:56 am #

    Thanks for the responses so far. I really appreciate it, and I don’t want to go overboard with anything.


    I didn’t call the police (and very likely wouldn’t) because, all things considered, I have problem with the criminalization of simple drug use. I agree with you on the “dangers” of pot. Also, I am not merely planning to hide behind the apartment manager. I am perfectly willing to be visible, both by physically visiting the playground at random intervals and by confronting the kids face to face (they left in a REAL hurry, so that wasn’t much of an option last night). I do, however, think it’s something the apartment complex should be aware of, especially if I go and put up my own signs.


    I considered that the signs may be gleefully ignored, but figured they were worth a try, since evidence indicates a well placed sign can do the trick.

    Also, I have zero problem with teenagers hanging out on the playground. I even let my kids play with teenagers if they so choose. But drugs concern me a little bit.

  10. Anthony Hernandez July 12, 2010 at 3:57 am #

    Let me add that my comment is based on experience. couple weeks ago, I sent my 8.5 year old son ONE BLOCK to the laundry to wash his clothes down one of the quietest,s afest streets in town. (I know; I’ve seen the crime maps).

    Some *(&^@!hole called the police, who sent THREE cars, interrogated him, and then walked him home to try to convince me that what I was doing was dangerous.

    Why that person could simply have asked, “Hi, are you OK? Does your dad know where you are? OK, have a nice day” and left it at that is absolutely beyond me.

    Moral of the story: If you truly believe that most of society is good and that the world is a fundamentally safe place for your kids to be out in, then put your mouth where your money is and DEAL WITH THE SITUATION YOURSELF. Only call the cavalry when all else has failed.

  11. Claudia Conway July 12, 2010 at 3:59 am #

    To be honest, I’m not really sure Aaron is worried about here.

    You say you’re in a pleasant and safe area, and I don’t think a few kids smoking pot makes it a less safe place for your children, nor will it make them more inclined to take drugs. I’d say, what kids don’t know can’t hurt them in this instance. They’ll just think the kids are smoking cigarettes (maybe ‘weird’ ones), but the kids will hardly be offering it to six-year-olds or anything. But I agree a quiet, non-judgemental word, might get them to keep it out of the way of people who feel uncomfortable about it.

    The best advice I can suggest is to keep your kids free range, then they’re less likely in their teens to try to ‘prove’ that they are ‘adults’ through drugs, sex or other risky behaviour – it’s small wonder some young people resort to these in damaging ways if we don’t allow them to experience and display responsibility.

  12. Anthony Hernandez July 12, 2010 at 4:00 am #

    I still think you overreacted. Subject to what I said earlier about making sure it’s just pot, etc.

  13. Waltz July 12, 2010 at 4:03 am #

    More kids and more parents. Flood the playground with kids and the teens will get uncomfortable.

  14. Veterans Administration home loans July 12, 2010 at 4:17 am #

    IMHO, The best thing you can do is educate your kids. Tell them that drugs are bad. Tell them that they can get hurt if they touch things that they don’t recognize. This will include drugs, weapons, used condoms, etc. Tell them to tell an adult if they see anything unusual. Also, tell the teenagers to go get high somewhere else or you will tell their parents. This will work even if you don’t know who their parents are. Teenagers are gullible.

  15. Maria Droujkova July 12, 2010 at 4:23 am #

    If you make signs, please consider making them general, polite and non-aggressive, something like: “Please do not smoke around here – children at play!”

    See for some hilarious signs, though.

    Also, talk to the smokers and ask them, politely, to be elsewhere. It is an excellent opportunity to model civil behavior to your kids.

  16. Pamala July 12, 2010 at 4:27 am #

    I would have called the police. Sorry but it’s illegal and I don’t like illegal behavior around my children. I would have also told the kids I had called, had to do that on the 4th when some teens were getting it on at the park. I had no problem calling the cops and also letting the kids know what I had done. They high tailed it out of the park.

    I’m not a helicopter parent, but drug use, no matter what kind, is not a good thing and shouldn’t be done at a children’s playground. Just because it’s pot doesn’t make it any better. It’s illegal. Plain and simple.

    And yeah it’s no different than alcohol but it’s also illegal to drink alcohol at parks and be intoxicated at a park so why it would be okay for pot is beyond me. And frankly I think alcohol should be illegal as well.

  17. pebblekeeper July 12, 2010 at 4:37 am #

    We are dealing with this right now on the lake – having so many people come and go on the weekends. So far – we like making friends with the teen-early twenty crowd. Now, they seem to respect me as a person. I get a smile and a wave and they seem to be territorial about my boys – looking out for them. Get the teens on your side. Bring out chips and salsa. Talk to them. Let them know you are a safe house. I have found in our casual conversation – they know what our standards are for behavior – and seem to put out the cigarettes when the boys walk by.

    Friendship will get alot farther than fear. I know, a couple of my neighbors and 2 of my friends think I’m crazy. But when they tie up to our dock to fish, and they hand me a beer – I just say thanks. 🙂 Um, a smoke? I’m just not into that anymore. 🙂 But I’d just kindly say no thanks. 🙂

  18. helenquine July 12, 2010 at 5:04 am #

    I think you are right to want to ensure the playground doesn’t become habitually used in this way. But I wouldn’t be too concerned unless it’s something that happens more than once in a blue moon. If this is the first time your kids have mentioned teenagers with a “trophy” and the kids hoofed it when your wife went out, it’s likely they won’t be back.

    I don’t think you over reacted at all – going out to see what’s going on and passing on information to a central place for your building are some of the ways you begin to build a community. If they come back and stay around for long enough to talk with – that’s generally an even better way to build community too. If you can find out who their parents are you have one more layer of community too.

    I’m not a fan of officious “No Drugs” signs (or pretty much any other sign that tells people things they already know they should/shouldn’t be doing). They make places look so institutional and remove personal ownership. But Juliet Robinson’s idea of kid made signs that talk about what the place means to them sound like a great idea. Also consider other ways you can make the place clearly well cared for by locals – litter, unkempt flower beds, peeling paint, rusty equipment, etc. all encourage people to think a place isn’t well loved.

    Also, the best way to make a place seem like it isn’t a quiet place to do illicit things is to make sure it isn’t a quiet place to do illicit things. So getting out there at random times and playing with your kids is probably the best way to keep it kid friendly. Getting in touch with other parents whose kids use the playground and getting them to do the same should help share the burden and help build the community you mention is currently weak. As a bonus you may be able to get people to address any other issues with the playground too.

  19. Heather July 12, 2010 at 5:09 am #

    A good point to mention if there are really little kids using the playground: my toddler presents me with all sorts of trophies he has spotted on the ground. Mostly, that means leaves and stones, but quite often in some areas, it means cigarette butts *sigh*. So I’m inclined to mention to smokers that I’d really appreciate it if they could put their butts in the bin.

    This approach reminds people that kids use the space without disputing their right to smoke ordinary cigarettes.


  20. Sara July 12, 2010 at 5:30 am #

    I’d tell the kids that you’re going to call the police the next time it happens.

    Whatever the argument of the legality of pot the kids shouldn’t be doing it at their age (when both drinking and smoking is illegal) shouldn’t be doing it in public and shouldn’t be doing it at a park in front of small children. I’d have the same reaction if these kids were drinking or smoking.

    One visit by the police (even if it’s after they’ve left) and it’ll never happen again.

  21. LauraL July 12, 2010 at 5:40 am #

    As far as a Free-Range spin on this goes, here’s your chance to teach your kids what YOU think of smoking in general.

    For me, it would be, “My dad died because he smoked. It’s one of those things that once your body gets some it always wants some, and it’s BAD for your body. Sometimes people smoke things that are against the law. I know you kids are smart – if you see someone smoking something, you know it’s bad for you and that it might even be illegal, so you stay away and do your own thing and if your gut feelings say something is wrong, come get an adult.”

    Risk-assessment training for the kids, getting them to pay attention to the area around them, and acknowledging that gut feeling they will feel.

    And some eye-to-eye contact with the teens doesn’t hurt. 🙂 Just a smile and a wave, maybe a pointed glance at what they have in their hand and a raised eyebrow would be enough. 🙂

  22. Eric July 12, 2010 at 5:55 am #

    If you have tight community, maybe hold a meeting and get a consensus of what everyone wants done. You can even invite one of the officers, who are part of the community outreach programs, to the meeting. It’s not an official complaint (cops don’t like writing up reports), but it informs them of what’s going on. They can give suggestions, and point out your legal rights/options are.

    If you have a community newspaper, write an article and submit it to them. This way the alleged teens’ parents become aware of the situation. Not that it’s their kids, but knowing there are kids doing this in children’s park(s). Even if the parents don’t know it’s their kids, they may be more inclined to talk to their children about do’s and dont’s about drugs and drugs in parks. This may help deter the kids in question to find other hangouts, away from childen and children’s parks. At the very least if these kids do get caught by authorities, the parents can’t say they didn’t know.

  23. esmeraldasquietlife July 12, 2010 at 6:40 am #

    I think Anthony is being a bit on the mean side (sorry dude, I generally like your opinions- have in the past too, but you come across as kind of a somethingorother in your comments) BUT I TOTALLY agree with the gist of what he’s saying. Not to get ragingly political, but the only reason pot is illegal is because the MAN hasn’t found an easy/ acceptable way to change their stance and tax the hell out of it. I’d be more worried if the kids were getting hammered out there.

    I happen to live in a pretty poor neighborhood (affectionately known by locals as “felony flats”) and don’t runt into alot of helicoperting. It’s just not feasable for a working class family to be OCD about their kids. Kids ride around on their bikes, and wander around by themselves all the time where I live. I count myself lucky in many ways, but then I also do occasionally get “really lucky” (insert sarcasm here) and find a used rig in my driveway. Seriously.
    I know the “kids” that live in the apt complex next to my house smoke blunts at two am in the parking lot, but TBH, I could really care less about it. It’s not a point of concern for me, but the tweakers and used needles are, so I will have some grounds for general brow knitting just sending my kid to the park (not an issue yet, he’s in utero old atm).
    I think I agree with a couple of the people on here whov’e said that acknowledgement and education here is the key. Inform them of what is going on around them. Tell them under NO circumstances should they touch any post-use paraphinalia they find- basically treat it like a downed power line. It exists, sure, but it’s not something you should juggle or chase your siblings with. 😛
    My parents addressed drugs with me when I was in 5th grade mainly because my DARE officer was lying to us about them and I was coming home with misinformation. I was really glad they did. I think I’ll have to tell my kid at a younger age, since I live in the neighborhood that I do, but I’m going to try and find a balance that’s not going to terrify them, but that will keep them from being too curious if someone is solicitous (not that that’s very likely).
    Also, and again- pot is not something that I’m even remotely worried about. Cigarettes and beer concern me a heluva lot more.

  24. Anthony Hernandez July 12, 2010 at 6:45 am #

    @Esmerelda, I call them like I see them with neither apology nor euphemisms.

  25. Vince L July 12, 2010 at 7:04 am #

    I have seen stuff like this in my neighborhood and just gone up to the kids. I would do it – I would not recommend my wife to do it (ok, bash me for being sexist now). The kids I talked too left and haven’t been back. Once they know they are being watched or can be identified then they don’t come back.

  26. K July 12, 2010 at 7:21 am #

    We had this problem in our neighborhood park. Kids from the local HS would use the park to do drugs and… umm… copulate. So we made sure to walk our dogs *frequently* through the park and we hired an off-duty police officer to periodically stroll through the park. Worked great.

  27. esmeraldasquietlife July 12, 2010 at 7:46 am #

    @ Anthony- Yeah, I figured, like I said, your philosophy is great, you just don’t seem very nice sometimes.
    On the internet, inflection and tone is also lost (obvs), so sometimes one comes across as more severe, not that it sounds like you much care. But I got your vibe, and I’m down with blunt honesty, though I myself choose not to be so harsh. I find people listen a little better if I’m nice to them, even if it seems superfluous.
    Anyhow, your comment about drug use was spot on.

  28. Gina July 12, 2010 at 7:49 am #

    I agree with Angie, above. The presence of responsible adults randomly crashing their party will send the signal that they need to party elsewhere. If you must, have a respectful, frank discussion with them, but your presence alone should do the trick. If they seem to be violent or impervious to your hints, then call the authorities. Drug use is a crime.

  29. Dave July 12, 2010 at 8:28 am #

    Free Range is about neighbors taken back their neighborhoodsM. Neighbor involvement means safety. If we we are taking abut neighborhood teenagers and not armed drug dealers I would suggest a few of the fathers having a talk with the teenages and suggesting that they go someplace else to get high and remind them that they are being watched and its best they move on. They are acting like they own the playground. Let some of the fathers and men of the community inform them nicely that the playground belongs to the kids. If this is an otherwise safe neighborhood they will more than likely back down. I would also suggest. A group vof parents speak with the police. There is strength in numbers.

  30. Mrs Embers July 12, 2010 at 8:33 am #

    I understand people who think pot use isn’t a big deal- I wish the government WOULD legalize it and tax the hell out of it like they do tobacco.

    I would talk to them whether they were smoking tobacco or pot- as harmless as people want pot to be, I don’t want my kids breathing in anyone’s second-hand smoke. And as long as pot/ underage smoking/ underage drinking are illegal, I don’t want my kids to see people disrespecting the law, even if people think it’s a stupid one.

    I wouldn’t call the police unless it was consistently happening- they can’t do much if they don’t catch them doing it, anyway. And as someone else said, no one likes extra paperwork. 🙂

    I like the idea of more random trips outside and trying to get to know the kids

  31. Judi H July 12, 2010 at 8:41 am #

    A couple of things:

    1. From the way the letter is written, Aaron didn’t witness this, and is relying on his wife’s observations and a six-year-old’s description of a “trophy” (a bong? I am not clear on this either), but he wants to take action on it. I’d reserve posting signs and the like until Aaron observes for himself what is going on. The information at best is second hand and now has been colored by Aaron’s own presumptions, not clear observation.

    2. Use this as an opportunity to tell your kids A) they are very observant and B) can use those observation skills to give information to their parents about what they see and C) use these same observation skills to steer away from potentially dangerous behavior.

    3. I’m with Anthony’s approach on this. When you observe the kids in the park again, be direct. Don’t hide behind the cloak of the complex’s administration, which is in essence playing the game of telephone at this point. Observe, approach, request they take it elsewhere if it is indeed drugs, and proceed accordingly. Do so calmly and in the spirit of setting an example for your kids to abide by when dealing with a tough situation. Demonstrate diplomacy skills and problem solving skills for them. Don’t teach them to make a problem someone else’s in haste.

  32. Party Piper July 12, 2010 at 9:11 am #

    If the kids left in a hurry after seeing kids and an adult in the playground, I’m gonna venture a guess that it probably won’t happen again. They were probably trying to find an out of the way spot, because as someone pointed out, there just aren’t a lot of spots for teens to go to misbehave, and now they’ve realized that they need to keep looking. If they come back, confront them. They’re obviously scared of being caught, and even the threat of the authorities or their parents should suffice. I also like the kid created signs about how this is their playground and please respect it.

  33. Karen July 12, 2010 at 9:13 am #

    I’d say make an effort to get to know the teenagers’ parents. Be seen talking to them/socializing with them, greeting them by name in the laundry room or parking lot or pool. If the teenagers perceive that you know who their parents are and that you are on a first name basis with them, their anonymity will be shot. They won’t want you to catch them smoking weed if they think there is a chance that you will mention it to their parents. And who knows? You may actually discover that you like all these people and are glad you made the effort.

  34. Chris July 12, 2010 at 9:15 am #

    As a former drug addict (breaking my anonymity since I now have 17 years clean and sober) and a current parent with two small children, I can tell you that the ONLY thing that will work is a constant, vigilant presence on the playground. A ‘neighborhood watch’ (I like the dog-walking neighbor idea) can be quite effective.

    Also – and this is huge: LIGHTS. If you can get lights installed or put some in yourself, it will eliminate the comfort zone for those who think it’s a cool place to do drugs.

    Keep in mind that you will not be able to stop their drug use – which means you will (eventually) want to be upfront and honest with your children when they’re older. But you can, at least, make them go elsewhere. Good luck – I sincerely hope you succeed.

  35. Aaron Helton July 12, 2010 at 9:18 am #

    It looks like I need to add some clarification.

    First, I did happen to witness the kids smoking as they left hurriedly. I was standing inside looking out my window. What they had in their hands included at least one paper bag.

    Second, no, I did not see a bong, but my six year old’s description of it looking like a trophy was enough to suggest a bong. Neighbors whose patio overlooks the playscape in which they were hiding did see it and said it was a hookah. This doesn’t prove drugs, of course. Also the residue they left in the playscape was indicative.

    Third, this isn’t really a matter of the relative dangers of different drugs, and I realize that pot alone is not necessarily indicative of a safety issue. I did, however, feel like it was germane to the Free-Range Kids community. The idea of kids getting into drugs is a recurring national conversation, and it’s one of the many reasons that our society has forced kids indoors where they can be monitored at all times.

    And finally, I am attempting to be as rational as possible here. I happen to think that simply making routine appearances on the playground should be enough, but wanted a sanity check.

    Thanks to everyone who shared advice.

  36. Aaron Helton July 12, 2010 at 9:21 am #

    Oh, and one other thing I keep forgetting.

    I don’t know where these kids live or even if they live nearby, otherwise I would try to find their parents. I assume they live nearby because they were walking.

  37. bmj2k July 12, 2010 at 9:22 am #

    Aaron won’t call the police because he’s worried about the criminalization of simple drug use. Then I don’t get the problem. If what these kids are doing isn’t an issue, forget about it. If it is a problem, call the cops. I’m not taking an issue with your stance on drugs, but you seem to be hypocritically criminalizing the kids yourself with your signs and reporting to management.

    Based on what you say, the kids are creating an uncomfortable environment, causing you to curtail your use of a public (or is it private- is it part of your complex?) space and are a danger to your children. The obvious answer- call the police.

  38. renee July 12, 2010 at 9:54 am #

    I think that just making sure you pop out there every few minutes to let the teens know that adults are watching would be enough. The fact that they left the minute your wife went out is evidence enough that they were doing something that they didn’t want to get caught at. Exactly what sort of drug was being used is irrelevant. If they were just “hanging out” they wouldn’t have fled. And if the apt manager asked for any ideas, the extra lights are a great idea. I would only go the police route if this escalates and they become rude to your kids and hurt property.

  39. Linda Lou July 12, 2010 at 10:39 am #

    I haven’t read the other comments, but I’m trying to figure out why weed smoking teens who timidly scurried off as soon as they noticed someone watching them would constitute any sort of a safety issue.

  40. jrmiss86 July 12, 2010 at 10:48 am #

    Ok, I simply do not get the “its only pot” argument. A drug is a drug. Alcohol, smoking, pot, or hard drugs. Teenagers shouldn’t be doing any of them. Why because it is illegal, no matter what your feeling on the situation are. Just because don’t agree with the law doesn’t make it legal. If you have kids that you suspect are using drugs at your local playground then you need to call the police and have them patrol the area. They don’t even have to talk to the kids because chances are when they see the police presence they will go somewhere else.

  41. Anthony Hernandez July 12, 2010 at 10:55 am #

    @jrmiss, if anyone needs a serious bong hit, it’s you. Yes it’s illegal and so what? Do you know why it’s illegal? Because of mass media selling fear in the form of William Randolph Hearst bloviating about black people and “reefer mdness” that got the public so scared they made pot illegal.

    Just because something is illegal does not mean that the law is just, right, or based on any real logic or science whatsoever. We evolved with brains and can only do our legacy justice by actually using those brains. Or, if you prefer, God created our brains and the only way to honor Him is to actually use those brains. And when you use your brain to do something besides buying into the legality argument, you find that pot is just about as benign a substance as one could ever hope for. In fact, pot causes FAR FEWER deaths and injuries than dihydrogen monoxide. If you are going to be scared of something, THAT is a real killer that we are ALL exposd to!

    Given a choice, I would MUCH rather have my son smoking pot than drinking when he is a teenager. I would MUCH rather have him doing it at home than out at a party or on the streets.

  42. Maria Droujkova July 12, 2010 at 10:57 am #

    @jrmiss86 Check out any theory of moral reasoning (say, Kohlberg – or Dungeons&Dragons character sheets) and you will see that laws aren’t a strong argument for everybody: Some people, for example, value universal ethics or the good of their community over local laws. In this particular case, zero-tolerance and the war on drugs can hurt a kid so badly, even for a minor infraction, that one hesitates to get the authorities involved out of simple humanitarian reasons. Especially when an adult simply walking onto the playground made these smokers disappear.

    A lot of “free range” is illegal, against regulations, or frowned upon, by the way. It does not make it wrong.

  43. LauraL July 12, 2010 at 10:58 am #

    ok ok ok, chillax, everyone.

    I think the safety dangers here are in small children encountering paraphernalia without knowing what it is and engendering harm from that – such as needles, residue, or even a matchbook, you know?

    We’re all on the same side here. Deep breaths and let’s focus on the actual question.

  44. Benjamin Bankruptcy July 12, 2010 at 11:17 am #

    I agree chill it was just weed, probably. 60% of adult Australians have smoke weed at some point without turning into vile rapists, murderers or baby eaters.

  45. Michelle the Uber Haus Frau July 12, 2010 at 11:42 am #

    Go up to the teenagers and say “Come on, this is a playground for children, can you go smoke your sh*t somewhere else?” Whats with all the shyness around teens? If you see them doing something talk to them directly. And really “No drugs, we’re watching” isn’t going to stop them. Trust me, I knew many a pot head when I was a teenager.

  46. Noël H. July 12, 2010 at 11:49 am #

    I agree with Waltz above, the more kids using the playground for actual playing the fewer teens using it as a hangout for questionable activities.

  47. Penni Russon July 12, 2010 at 12:49 pm #

    You know what? I really like @Juliet_Robinson’s idea of kids making signs that just reflect how they value the park. You could organise a neighbourhood picnic too, and post some fliers around to get other people using the park. Maybe the teenagers will come back and be a part of the fun.

    I’d be a little worried about my 4&6 year old being alone in a playground with a bunch of teenagers loitering, whether there were drugs involved or not.

    Having said that, teenagers deserve to be free range too. Having “we’re watching you” plastered around is going to make them feel like they’re doing something wrong even if they’re not – it’s certainly going to impinge on their sense of freedom and independence.

  48. Lori July 12, 2010 at 1:22 pm #

    I’d be upset if this happened at the playground my kids frequent — especially if it was in such close proximity to my house. A playground is for playing on the equipment and enjoying the outdoors. It’s not a place for drugs, or alcohol for that matter. A one-time occurrance is no big deal, but if you start to notice it frequently, I would go up to the teens and ask them to leave. If it didn’t stop, I wouldn’t hesitate to contact the authorities and/or alert the apartment management. Just b/c I want to give my kids independence doesn’t mean I want them exposed to drugs!

  49. David Blazina July 12, 2010 at 1:42 pm #

    im with waltz & home loan…..educate & release.
    isnt the whole idea of free-range kids that they can handle themselves? sometime (rarely) the world is unsafe, but when & where that is going to present itself is never known. Love your kids enough to trust that they will act as you have asked them to.

  50. Michelle July 12, 2010 at 1:48 pm #

    Don’t have time to read through all the responses, so if this is a repeat…my apologies! I would suggest that you get together with the other parents/interested residents and work out a schedule for at least one, maybe two adults to “hang” around the playground while the kids play for a week or two. They will most likely move on. If it starts up again, just start the monitoring again.

  51. Ben July 12, 2010 at 3:58 pm #

    If this playground belongs to the apartment, then how do the teenagers get in there? If they live in the building, you can talk to their parents. If not, try to get the apartment manager to kick out anyone who doesn’t belong there.

  52. staceyjw July 12, 2010 at 4:48 pm #

    Please please please DON’T CALL THE POLICE on a few pot smoking kids. The laws about pot are worse than the drug itself!!!

    Calling the police about these type of things, instead of trying to talk it out within the community, makes a neighborhood unfriendly and paranoid. Don’t participate in the “drug war” mentality, which is all about militant policing solutions for minor infractions. It’s like killing a fly with a hand grenade!

    Think about it this way- would you want the cops called if this was your kid? I bet you would rather they get a talking to by another adult, or a phone call home first…..

    These teens need to learn some manners more than anything else. The world is full of weed smokers, and most are normal people that will take it elsewhere if asked. Someone needs to teach them some etiquette, and explain the possible legal consequences of their actions. This is not your job, but someone should do it- if adults took the time to explain this stuff to teens when they catch them, it could make all the difference.

    It is your right to do something about it. Here is what I would suggest:

    1) Find out who they are, and get the names of their parents if you can.

    2) Get another neighborhood parent (if you can), if not, bring at least one other adult. when you go and…

    3) TALK TO THEM- tell them that you don’t want them smoking weed, or doing any other drug, around your little kids. Explain that it is poor “drug etiquette” not to mention just plain stupid. Emphasize the rudeness of their actions.

    (If they are not smart mouths, you should let them know that legal consequences are seriously harsh, and can ruin so many things in their future- like no college loans or grants!!! Criminal records make jobs hard to come by. Etc.)

    4) Make sure they know their parents will be called if they keep up the bad behavior. Also let them know you will not do anything if they act properly.

    5) IF they are jerks, or you don’t think they are listening, inform them that you have no desire to turn them into the cops, but YOU WILL, if pushed. They should know that this would ONLY as a last resort, and would be 100% dependent on their actions.

    5) Follow up on our threats if need be. They need to learn how to act right, and that smoking in public, around little kids, is not being a responsible neighbor. If they make the effort to stay far away from the kids, but still go to the park, let it alone.

    It sounds like a lot, but it can be done in only a few sentences. It may seem scary, but this is part of being an adult in the community. We cannot push everything off onto the police, save that for dangerous situations.

    It is unlikely that your kids have any idea what the are doing, what they see (IF they even notice) are big kids smoking and fooling around. You can use this as a teachable moment, to talk about why you think that smoking (don’t need to be specific, all smoking is harmful) is gross, stinky, unhealthy, uncool, and expensive. Whatever you believe about smoking, now is a good time to mention it. You can also talk about manners, and why it is rude to do certain things like smoke around kids (or litter, etc.), and tell them what you think about rude people.

    Hope this helps!

  53. Renee July 12, 2010 at 5:28 pm #

    I can understand that many opinions regarding drug use vary, I don’t think any of us would like a child play over another home if an older sibling (or even parent) was smoking pot, no different then be concerns about random teenagers smoking pot in public.

    Unless it was a holiday/special occasion I don’t drink in front of my children and because of their young ages I don’t have more then one. (Can’t wait until they turn 16, designated driver Woo Hoo!) As parents we have to still be alert enough to be there for them, I would definitely not have a drink when friends are over to casually hang out, again the exception of a ‘special occasion’ dinner/cookout.

    We sympathize with teenagers as being once in their shoes, but they are also closer to being adults and should be held to an accountable for their behavior. As responsible adults we can’t be drunk/high in public, especially of all places in a playground that attracts children. Same rule applies to teenagers.

  54. Kenny Felder July 12, 2010 at 7:50 pm #

    I can’t honestly imagine signs doing any good. I would make the opportunity to talk to the kids–not with a holier-than-thou attitude, but man-to-man, explaining that you don’t want your six-year-old exposed to this, so could they please take it somewhere else.

    My guess is, the teenagers react very reasonably–they are often shocked to be treated with any respect at all–and the problem is over. If you happen to get a “f*** you, Pops” kind of teenager, then it’s time to get the police involved. That is what they are there for.

  55. Renee July 12, 2010 at 8:00 pm #

    @ Kenny

    I had an experience at a drive-in with a car load of teenagers, in which I simply went over and I told them politely like an adult that I could hear there excessive profanity from over 30 feet away and that if it persisted that I would no choice but to get management involved. They were shocked…. in a good way.

  56. kbar July 12, 2010 at 8:06 pm #

    Dummy cameras might be effective. They might think twice about lighting up if there is a possibility of being video taped.

  57. Karin July 12, 2010 at 8:25 pm #

    Kids doing drugs in a park!?!? Why that never happened when I was a kid. Ok – sarcastic…

    Honestly – it’s kids smoking pot in a park. Has happened for generations. You cannot keep your kids from being exposed to this for their entire lives so why not take advantage of a learning experience. It’s time to begin to teach your kids that these are drugs and drugs are not good. If you see people doing those drugs, stay away from them and play further away. Never touch the drugs or accept an offer. Personally – it’s like learning a new language – the earlier you start learning, the quicker the lesson will settle in. If you wait to late in life, it becomes harder to learn!

    It’s also time to teach your kids that they can’t control the behavior of others…there will be pot smokers around them for their ENTIRE lives (I am nearing my 40’s and I still know people who light up). You can’t change them, you can’t be a moral snob about it. The only thing you can do is choose what is right for you. So now is the best time to start telling them about drugs and how it’s best to just stay away from them.

  58. Tara July 12, 2010 at 8:33 pm #

    I like the few comments that I did read. Talk to the teens directly. Encourage more kids to get their kids out there so it isn’t an abandoned playground (if it is). Educate your own kids (if you see something that looks like this please leave it alone and come get a parent).

  59. jrmiss86 July 12, 2010 at 8:41 pm #

    @ Anthony and Maria,

    We may not agree with the laws, or think that they are right. That doesn’t mean we don’t have to follow them. That is what adults do, follow the rules whether they like them or not. And no matter what you want to think, teenagers are almost adults and should be treated as such, no matter what the consequences are. If you saw an adult in the park doing the same thing, what would you say then.? It is not appropriate to be doing any kinds of illegal activity in an area where children play. What if they are also selling drugs at the same time? That can quickly become a very dangerous situation. I am not trying to play the what if game either. Kids who are using any kind of drug are buying it from somewhere. I stand by my opinion that if it is illegal it should be reported.

  60. jrmiss86 July 12, 2010 at 8:54 pm #

    oh, and what do you say to you kids when they don’t agree with one of your rules, that you know is in their benefit. When they look at you and say, “I don’t have to follow your rules, because I don’t agree with them” You have no leg to stand on, if you are showing them that just because you don’t agree with a law, you don’t follow it. And by not reporting these kids, that is exactly what you are showing your kids.

    There are very few things I take a hard stance on, Drugs and illegal activity are at the top of that very short list.

  61. sonya July 12, 2010 at 9:30 pm #

    The problem with the “it’s illegal” argument is that, as we have discussed elsewhere on these pages, sometimes things are illegal which shouldn’t be, e.g. in some regions it’s illegal to leave your 12 year old unattended. And we’ve said elsewhere that much better than calling the cops every time a kid is seen doing something a passerby thinks they shouldn’t be doing (i.e. walking down the street alone) we’d like people to be sensible and just talk to the kid. I think the same logic applies in this scenario.

  62. BethanyBob July 12, 2010 at 9:35 pm #

    Sorry, I’m not going to attempt to read all the responses — my baby just woke up.

    I want to add my vote to increasing adult presence in the area. You can consider asking the police department to have at least one officer stop by regularly, just to check up on the place for everyone’s safety — it might even encourage more parents to let their kids play outside.

  63. Maria Droujkova July 12, 2010 at 9:54 pm #

    @jrmiss86 You live by the rule that you have to follow rules, whether you agree with them or not on logical, moral or ethical grounds. I respect your position.

    I would like to ask you to realize that it is not the only position possible and moral. For example, people who helped slaves, or more recently Nazi victims, escape to safety – these people were breaking laws. Their position is morally defensible, though.

    When my kid or my students disagree with a rule I institute for their benefit, I fully expect to engage in a discussion about reasons for the rule – and to modify the rule, if necessary. Many times, this leads to better rules, with even more benefit to everybody. But whether we decide to change or to keep the rules, it also leads to great educational discussions, with kids understanding the world much deeper, seeing new facts they have not considered before, and otherwise becoming more educated.

  64. Sarah July 12, 2010 at 9:59 pm #

    I just wanted to add in response to several people on this thread. I don’t know if someone’s already said this-I’m short on time…

    You can not want to criminalize something and not want it in your house/yard/playground either. Just because I don’t agree with doing something (though, in this case I don’t care) doesn’t mean I want people arrested for it!

    Maybe more understandable than drugs?: When our baby was very small, our neighbors threw a huge party without warning anyone else. It kept all of us up for hours-just when I’d started getting some sleep again. I had no problem with going over there and asking if they’d be done soon and if not, if they could please step it down a bit. I know other neighbors were ready to call the cops (noise ordinance, possible underage drinking, etc), but I wasn’t wanting anyone to get in actual trouble (except with me-oooo, I’ll glare). Luckily, they didn’t realize they were bothering anyone (duh) and didn’t mind turning it down a bit.

    It sounds like Aaron is a pretty rational guy. Good for him!
    Part of ‘free-range parenting’ to me is being able to talk to other people’s kids in public spaces without fearing their parents getting POed at you for stepping on their authority. Alternatively, it also means letting your kids learning to see things you don’t always agree with and having them learn about it-you just have to know your kids and when they’re ready to understand enough to make decisions about stuff like that on their own.

    I hope you can get a chance to talk with them next time-good luck 🙂

  65. pentamom July 12, 2010 at 10:22 pm #

    Maria — the difference is that breaking the Nazi laws or the fugitive slave laws was seen as a moral necessity — in order to do good, or avoid hurting others, you HAD to break the laws.

    You do not have to smoke pot in a park where kids play in order to support some moral principle. You should obey the laws that do not compromise you or anyone else morally — you shouldn’t break them just because you don’t agree with them and you want to do something. As someone else pointed out, alcohol is not illegal, but we have open container laws and public intoxication laws in order to maintain some order in society. And there’s no good reason to break them.

  66. Denise July 12, 2010 at 10:24 pm #

    Ok, First let me say that I was no angel when I was a teenager. But, pot isn’t illeagal “just because the MAN hasn’t been able to figure out how to tax it” If the MAN can figure out how to tax tobacco he can figure out how to tax pot. Now, when I caught my teenage step-daughter with pot (or should I say my dog found her stash of pot). Her argument was “it’s just an herb”. I said if it’s just an herb, go sprinkle some of it on your 1 year old sister’s dinner. Of course she wouldn’t do that. (End result she was grounded for 3 days and was told to keep her pot somewhere her little sis or the dogs couldn’t find it). I also knew I couldn’t stop her from smoking (she was over 18). My question for all the other parents who think it’s ok for teens to smoke pot, if it’s ok for them, why is it not ok for my now 2 1/2 year old? Should I teach her to smoke it? It’s harmless after all. Right?

  67. Maria Droujkova July 12, 2010 at 10:32 pm #

    @pentamom – I fully agree that “You do not have to smoke pot in a park where kids play in order to support some moral principle.” I was just describing other situations to illustrate that, by itself, “following laws” may not be the basis of the decisions for some people, and that not following laws may be morally defensible. Also, involving the police in this situation (given the realities of the war on drugs) crosses the moral event horizon for many people who commented here.

  68. jared July 12, 2010 at 10:33 pm #

    I say this as a libertarian, a former pot user, and a young parent.

    If these teenagers aren’t yet established or creative enough to find a better place to smoke their pot than a kid’s playground, then they don’t deserve a polite or respectful response.

    No need for desktop publishing, apartment management, or police (yet). This is a situation best dealt with face-to-face, old-school.

    1. Ask your kids to come inside.

    2. Confront the teens, loudly, along the lines of “GET THE HELL OFF THIS PLAYGROUND.” If they don’t start moving immediately, walk up on the largest one and give him a good shove. Up against a fence, if applicable.

    If anyone takes a swing at you, that’s when you call the police. I predict you won’t see these kids again.

  69. Kate July 12, 2010 at 11:10 pm #

    I live in a very safe suburban community between Baltimore and DC but this was such an issue at the tot-lot right outside my house that the condo management company tore it down last summer (I never complained to them but apparently others did). Of course this didn’t solve the problem and now they just smoke up in the carport 20 yards away.

    Fwiw I really don’t care except that when they get high they get rowdy and loud which disturbs my son when he is sleeping. We have gone out there and asked them to tone it down which works until they forget. I talked to my realtor (or house in on the market and she lives across the street and is on the condo board) and she said the police have asked to be called so that they can do a drive by. According to them if they do it enough the kids will get the message and move on.

  70. chavisory July 12, 2010 at 11:22 pm #

    Are they just stupid teenagers and not threatening in any other way? Tell the knuckleheads yourself to find a basement, or you’ll call the cops. I bet they will.

  71. Okaasan59 July 13, 2010 at 1:03 am #

    Aw, the teens are just being “free-range”, too. 🙂

    Seriously, behind every teen is a parent who is glad they are out the house but worried about what they are doing. You’ll find that out when your kids get that age. So talk to the teens if you see them again. Tell them it’s okay for them to hang out at the park, knock on your door for a snack or a drink, and talk to you or your kids. But it’s NOT okay to smoke pot in front of them. They’ll respect you for that and may even end up thinking you’re one of the “cool” parents.

  72. BrianJ July 13, 2010 at 1:59 am #

    Interesting and germane conversation, especially to those of us California, where the MAN (e.g. we the people) has figured out how to tax pot. We have an initiative on the ballot to legalize pot and add a $50 per ounce tax. Then MJ will be governed much like alcohol is now… over 21 usage, some controls on sales locations and quantity that you’re allowed to have.

    (I’m assuming that the law will pass… and am actively working to make sure it does)

    So… will that lead to more people smoking in public? Probably. So parents who want to have their kids grow up without being exposed to people using drugs will have to figure out exactly how to have that conversation, because calling the cops will not be an answer.

    Imagine for a second that instead of smoking dope, these teens where hanging out on the playground equipment having teen age appropriate conversations about sex. Or smoking a cigarette. Or drinking something that you suspected had alcohol.

    My advice is to treat this behavior the way you should treat any other behavior that you don’t like from your neighbors… have a conversation. Explain your concerns. Listen to their concerns. Expect to reach an agreement (in this case, that agreement would likely be that they not do “adult” stuff in the children’s playground, and you won’t make a big deal of it).

  73. BrianJ July 13, 2010 at 2:07 am #

    @Denise wrote “My question for all the other parents who think it’s ok for teens to smoke pot, if it’s ok for them, why is it not ok for my now 2 1/2 year old?”

    By that twisted logic your 2 1/2 year old should be allowed to drink beer, have sex and own a gun.

    The reason why it’s not OK for your toddler, is that your toddler is not now, or soon to be, an adult. Whether it’s OK for any teen is a slightly different question that is best left to the teen and his or her parents. One of the lessons of teenagerness is that if you do illegal stuff you are possibly going to be treated like a criminal. So take only risks if you are prepared to deal with the consequences.

    The job of adult citizens is to make sure that laws make sense. The prohibition against marijuana use doesn’t make sense. It also doesn’t work. And it’s tremendously expensive in both money and liberty.

    But even after that prohibition is ended, no right thinking person is going to advocate handing a joint (or a pot brownie) to a toddler.

  74. pentamom July 13, 2010 at 2:11 am #

    “calling the cops will not be an answer. ”

    But calling the cops WILL be an answer if the laws are structured like the alcohol laws — there are places where doing it will still be illegal because it will be considered disruptive to the peace.

    Making the substance legal does not mean that there will be no illegal ways to use it. And that’s probably the best solution — legal substance, restricted time, place, and manner of use and of user.

  75. BrianJ July 13, 2010 at 2:15 am #

    @ jared – while I generally agree with your line of thinking, I strongly disagree with the thought that putting your hands on another person is a good idea. Very illegal, can get YOU in a whole lot of trouble with the law.

    Smoking weed in most places is a misdemeanor punishable with a small fine. Assault is a felony. Assault on a minor….

    And that’s not even considering that idea that 3 or 4 16 year old boys might kick a grown man’s butt pretty thoroughly and be warranted in doing so after he physically attacked them.

  76. Dot Khan July 13, 2010 at 2:18 am #

    I agree with talking to the teens in a respectful manner so they are more likely to return the respect and watch out for your kids.
    Part of Free Ranging is risk assessment of real dangers vs hyped up ones. Most of us recognize hype such as the belief that everyone on the registry list fits the false stereotype of the rare predators.
    The attitude that if a substance is illegal then the cops must be called doesn’t factor in the history of what is prohibited and why. Last night a History Channel documentary pointed out that most banned substances were not done so based on health or safety reasons but to target a segment of society. The original laws prohibiting the use of alcohol or cocaine applied only to what was called “inferior races” as many minorities once were once called. Today penalties for different forms of the same substance like cocaine are drastically different. Marijuana was classified as a dangerous drug as a way to control the anti war effort in the 1960s.

  77. BrianJ July 13, 2010 at 2:29 am #

    @pentamom – you’re right that you CAN call the cops if weed is being smoked someplace where it is illegal. What I meant by that is that once weed is legal, it will be much harder to hide it’s existence from children, and we as parents, will have to confront it with them. We discuss with kids alcohol all the time. They ask for some of what we’re drinking, we say no “because it has alcohol.” Similar conversations will have to happen about weed.

    Also, I would guess that many police forces would tell you that they are busy and if you want someone to stop smoking something in the playground, you should ask them to stop.

  78. Big Mac July 13, 2010 at 2:56 am #

    I myself am not a fan of weed. I do think it should be legalized though, and much of my problem with it now is its illegal status (or problems that more or less stem from its illegal status – laced joints are a big problem here and I’m hoping that legalization might help that problem). And I like that Brian J is actually working towards legalization instead of just flipping off the law (or at least that’s what I got from your post).
    At the same time, I have been a smoker (tobacco, not marijuana) for most of my adult life and have just recently quit. It was perfectly legal for me. I still went out of my way to never smoke around children, including my son. It’s not that I was trying to hide the fact that tobacco exists, it’s that I didn’t want him or other kids breathing in my smoke. I expect the same courtesy from others regardless of what plant you smoke.
    My son is 7, and he has some knowledge of all the more common drugs – not a lot, but we’ll build on it as he gets older. Drugs – particularly meth, which includes meth labs – are a major problem where we live, and I want him to know what they are and what they can do before he stumbles upon someone’s stash.

  79. esmeraldasquietlife July 13, 2010 at 3:14 am #

    @ Denise- I think BrianJ summed up my would be response to your comment beautifully. Also, I used capslock when I wrote “the MAN” as a sort of comic reference to govenment regulators. I also pointed out that (you’re right!) it’s NOT just that “they” haven’t figured out how to tax the stuff, it also has to do with the fact that they (policymakers and beaurocrats) would have to backpedal on almost a hundred years of absurd, paranoid propaganda, and that takes time.

    I’m sure they’ll figure out a way to do it eventually, but it’s a slow process and involves convincing a lot of people that maybe they weren’t completely straight with us about the effects of marijuana after all (violent hallucinations, uncontrollable laughter, etc- yeah not so much) But regulators and officials have to change policy in such a way as to make it appear that they are not admitting that they were lying or hidiously misinformed… I’m just saying, they’ll get around to it but I wouldn’t hold your breath, unless you’ve inhaled.

    So @BrianJ, thanks for the excellent comments- well said. I seem to get a little off track whenever I try to say what you’ve so eloquently said.

    @Maria- thanks for the “might doesn’t really necesarally mean right” argument- your lovely explanation of adherence to greater social and communal good over one of lawful yet blind obedience really struck a chord in me, and I really thought it was well placed here. People *do* use the “but it’s illegal!” argument a lot, and I am so damned sick of it.
    You really hit the nail on the head, and I wanted to thank you for your excellently worded comment.

  80. ImpassionedPlatypi July 13, 2010 at 10:24 am #

    I’m reading this on my phone, so I didn’t go through all the comments, but am I the only one who read “trophy” in relation to smoking as a hookah? I personally wouldn’t care whether it was cigarettes, pot, salvia, or pretty much any other smokable substance

  81. ImpassionedPlatypi July 13, 2010 at 10:30 am #

    Crap, comment sent too soon.

    I was trying to say I wouldn’t care what they were smoking personally, is use it as a teaching opportunity, but if it was hookah then you have just as little legal justification for being uppity about it as you would about tobacco because hookah is legal.

  82. Marvin Merton July 13, 2010 at 1:25 pm #

    I think just showing up now and then, and saying hello to the kids, whatever their ages, will do about as much good as anything. We live near a high school in a very safe neighborhood, thus it’s not entirely unusual to see kids with glazed eyes. In our state, getting caught with less than an ounce and no intent to sell, gets the equivalent of a speeding ticket. It is a few hundred dollars, but it makes smokers less inhibited than in many other states, I suspect. A few years ago, our nanny (who was in her early 20s) was playing with our boy on the porch, when she looked up to see a couple of high school kids puffing away at a pipe. She simply said, “Hey, I’m right here,” theirs eyes bugged out and they found a safer haven. My wife and I have each had a similar episode over the years. As far as safety goes, it doesn’t threaten me, unless they’re driving afterward, of course. (And, yeah, I know that happens.)

    Anyway, I think a community where kids and adults are out and about regularly will do the most to keep “adult” activities elsewhere. Thus, in my opinion, communities going free range would be beneficial.

  83. SgtMom July 13, 2010 at 5:39 pm #

    All the neighbor ladies were in a tizzy gossiping about my son openly smoking a pot pipe as he walked down the street.

    He’d stopped by a garage sale and a nice lady had given him an AVON pipe shaped cologne bottle, which he’d stuck in his mouth. He was 10 or 11 years old and now declared a menace to the neighborhood!

    Everyone is so quick to conclude the worst about other’s kids, while being blind to their own!

    None of my kids, now grown and parents themselves, ended up with drug problems.

    The neighbors hated us for it, but I ALWAYS allowed the kids to hang out at our house. Yes, we went through tons of bread and pb&j. Yes, they blasted their car stereos and sometimes forgot to wipe their feet.

    I think every last one of those kids still come by to say “Hi” from time to time, sometimes mowing the lawn, sometimes fixing our sprinklers or invegling my husband into a quick wiffle ball or lawn darts game (yes, we hoarded a banned set of lawn darts)like in the old days, even though they are now grown with kids of their own.

    There’s a HUGE difference between ‘helicoptering’ kids and being involved and interested in their lives.

    “Helicoptering” is a selfish act for self gratification or self congratulation, while being ‘involved’ is simply caring and nurturing.

  84. DMT July 13, 2010 at 7:44 pm #

    “By that twisted logic your 2 1/2 year old should be allowed to drink beer, have sex and own a gun..”

    This comment reminded me of a story I read two years ago. At a festival in northern Wisconsin (the state I live in), police were called because a man was observed giving his two sons, ages 5 and 2, full cups of beer. The man was not arrested for this, however, because in Wisconsin, it is perfectly legal for a parent to give their minor child alcohol, no matter the age of the child.

    He was arrested for cussing at police though.

  85. Uly July 14, 2010 at 12:09 am #

    Maria, let’s not get all Godwin. Smoking marijuana – whether or not that law is reasonable or makes sense – is not at all akin to hiding Jews. It’s just *not*.

  86. BrianJ July 14, 2010 at 12:26 am #

    @ Maria – the problem with analogies that compare your parental rule to laws is that those analogies require making adult citizens analogous to children of the state.

    I don’t want to live in a nanny state. I don’t want to live in a monarchy or a dictatorship either. As such, it is my responsibility as a citizen to not merely follow the rules, but to think about them. Where I find them objectionable, I work to change them. Where I find them morally repugnant, I defy them. Where I find them merely inconvenient, and where they serve no purpose other than to make my life less enjoyable, I ignore them.

    I recognize that there are potential consequences to all of the above.

  87. Maria Droujkova July 14, 2010 at 12:30 am #

    @Uly – Sorry to digress into a more abstract discussion that lost connection with the issue at hand. To retrace, the thread went like this:

    – Why are we even arguing about this? The law is the law, period.
    – But some people don’t follow laws automatically

    Please note that I have never compared the situation described in the original post to the examples I provided. The examples were about the general principle of automatically following laws, not about particulars of this situation. It was probably a bad idea to depart from the topic so.

  88. Maria Droujkova July 14, 2010 at 12:38 am #

    @Brian – this is an excellent point. The way states work are so far from consensual decision-making, any analogy with what we try to do within the family or learning groups will probably have no sense whatsoever. Having said that, critical thinking skills developed within the family can probably transfer to other life situations.

    @esmeraldasquietlife – thank you! I just listened to a lecture on social psychology that cited Kohlberg’s claim very few people (like Mother Teresa) ever operate at the “common good” level of moral reasoning. I disagree – many people in this very thread do.

  89. dahozho July 14, 2010 at 4:23 am #

    So where is the line? Many of you seem to think smoking pot in public is ok. If the teens come back, bring friends, and drink alcohol and toke? If the teens (or others) begin using the playground as a public restroom? If wall-scrawls start showing up on everything? Alcohol containers strewn all around the play area? Dealers?

    Good community policing begins with enforcing ‘nusiance’ behaviors. It prevents escalation of incidents.

    We live in a society (whether you like it or not) of laws which ensure standards of behavior. The teens need to understand that what they are doing needs to be (at the minimum) more private and not around small children.

    And no, not a good idea in this area (DC Metro) to address the problem yourself. You just never know who’s packing, who’s the complete nutjob, who’s got a racial chip on their shoulder the size of Mt. Shasta. LE has a reason for existing, and community officers can also assist if the problem continues. Hopefully, it won’t.

  90. Anthony Hernandez July 14, 2010 at 4:34 am #


    Your argument smacks of, “If we let gays marry, then we have to allow bestiality and pedophilia.” and I call BS on it.

    1) Pot is demonstrably far(!) less harmful than other things we do in public such as smoke tobacco, drink coffee, eat trans fats, drive cars, etc. If we are to base public acceptability on level of harm caused, we should be welcoming stoner with open arms.

    2) Last I checked, a roach (marinjuana cigarette butt) is far smaller and less toxic than a regular cigarette butt (and far less likely to be discarded). It is also ordersof magnitude less harmful than broken bottles, needles, used condoms, etc. See #1. Clearly, if someone is doing something that is potentially harmful (such as drinking, which causes belligerence and which could leave broken glass lying around), that is not accepable. Seriously, you need to stop lumping so many things together.

    3) Telling someone nicely to please take it somewhere else or do it at different hours is a wholly separate reaction than running to Mommy (the apt. management and/or police) or hiding behind proxies (sins).

    4) OH MY GOD THEY MAY BE CARRYING A GUN!!! OH Y GOD!! Yes, they may… except they are probably not, even in the heart of the ghetto. I have walked in the worst neighborhoods imaginable and even there the vast majority of the people there are unarmed. Of those who are, the vast majority have enough sense not to go to jail for life over someone asking them a simple favor. Of the rest, they make national news… BECAUSE THEY ARE RARE EVENTS. If you are going to be scared of something, at least base your fear on facts. Which means you need to be a lot more scared of your own child in your own car with your hands on the wheel than you do of kids smoking a little weed in a nice apartment complex in a good neighborhood.

    You may want to consider Xanax.

  91. helenquine July 14, 2010 at 4:38 am #

    Dahozho – Good community policing begins with building relationships with the members of the community.

    And if you live in an area where you have never for a moment felt unsafe (as the original letter writer states) then you are going to increase your alienation from the community you live in by calling in someone else in the first instance.

  92. Virginia July 15, 2010 at 8:50 am #

    I like the idea of approaching the teens in a friendly way, if you see them again, and asking them to keep drugs/alcohol/cigarettes away from the playground. In my admittedly limited experience, many teens will respond well to a request like this. I also agree with stepping up the adult presence at the park. There’s nothing anti-free-range about doing that; you’ve observed a potential danger to your kids, and keeping the park well supervised is the best way to combat it.

    Good luck!

  93. dahozho July 18, 2010 at 4:34 am #


    You obviously can afford to live in better areas than I, travel in your own car, and do not have people going off on profanity-laced racist rant when asked to move their huge SUV that is blocking the only available entrance to a building (just for one example).

    How nice for you. In the area this guy may live in, and I live in, you go to LE most of the time to alleviate problems. They are paid, they wear the vests, and you don’t have to worry about whose older brother will “take care of that uppity cracker bitch.”

    Got it?

    I don’t CARE how “less harmful” pot is– it is ILLEGAL. Until it is legalized, I expect the laws surrounding it to be enforced. And yes, it DOES lead to more and more violations. (I guess you haven’t read the studies on nusiance law enforcement, and wouldn’t be interested it you had cites anyway)

    So really. You gonna just go out and toke with the kids? That just shows where you are in your own personal development.

  94. dahozho July 18, 2010 at 4:38 am #


    No, actually, you are really going to go to LE if you feel unsafe.

    The so-called “adults” of these kids are going to tell them to “stand up for themselves” and harrass you when they see you if you try to approach them yourself.

    There are too many unstable people around my neighborhood to make doing anything yourself a reasonable option. Even within my building, the management says to come to them first and not approach people.

    Its nice to know that some areas are not this bad. This is all I can afford, as illegals have driven up the rents in this county so badly. (Yes, really, no joke.)

  95. LauraL July 18, 2010 at 4:40 am #

    Hey, folks. Seems this has gone off topic. Might I suggest taking your argument with each other to private emails?

    Thanks. 🙂

  96. Anthony Hernandez July 18, 2010 at 4:59 am #

    Make that Xanax with a double vodka chaser…

  97. dahozho July 18, 2010 at 8:52 am #

    See? You just have no clue, do you, Anthony. Just don’t ride public transportation in Balitmore.

    You never did answer my question about the slippery slope either.

    And no thanks, coffee is as much as I indulge. You seem to know a lot about it though– go have one yourself.

  98. Anthony Hernandez July 18, 2010 at 9:19 am #

    Which part of, “pot is less harmful than alcohol, caffeine, or many other legal substances” are you not grasping? If pot can lead to slippery slope then so can anything… as evidenced by the fact that people get hooked on damned near anything, legal or not.

    Your ignorance and paranoia do not truth make, nor do your histrionics widom make.

  99. zad carlos July 18, 2010 at 9:26 pm #

    I like this post, as well as this whole website. it is very well put together and the information that you have shown here is also top notch and a powerful read for me. Please keep creating such super material. Thanks alot.

  100. Personalized Mugs : October 26, 2010 at 6:23 pm #

    car stereos that are made by Kenwooda are the best and very durable`.~

  101. Cheryl W November 28, 2010 at 9:20 am #

    The best I have found is to stare at the drug users/buyers. Walk near them. Make them uncomfortable. If you know the kids or parents, start talking to them, and tell them how you haven’t talked to their parents in a while and need to catch up with them….

    Our neighborhood park had people making deals – two cars drive up (usually too fast) and then park, one person gets out of one car and gets into the other. They drive off. They come back in five minutes, get into their own cars and leave. Also people who smoked or did stuff in their cars. Once even a couple having sex – my friend and I decided it was time to walk the walking path that went past their car. Another time it was teens parked under the drug sign. (graffitti) and a mom with me knew them and we told them that we knew they were not enjoying the nice day – they met their dealer – and started asking about their parents. They finally said “Um, yes, we are not here to enjoy the park….we will do our business elsewhere. (I didn’t know the parents or I may have called – my friend knew the kids from her teen sons.)

  102. Calandra Connick October 15, 2011 at 6:59 am #

    Its such as you read my thoughts! You appear to grasp so much approximately this, like you wrote the ebook in it or something. I feel that you could do with a few percent to drive the message home a bit, however other than that, this is magnificent blog. A great read. I will certainly be back.


  1. Top Posts — - July 13, 2010

    […] Advice Needed: What to Do About Drugs at the Playground? Hi Readers — Just got this letter today and what’s cool is that the writer, Aaron, is asking for your […] […]