effects marijuana youth

Effects of marijuana legalization on youth

It’s time to talk about a serious issue: the effects of marijuana legalization on youth.

Marijuana is already legal in some states, and with local news breaking stories like “Rep. Simpson files bill to end marijuana probation in Texas,” it’s time we start talking about how legalizing marijuana affects our youth.

Increased youth access to marijuana

When you increase access to marijuana, even though it’s only legal for those 21 and older in states where it’s legal, youth access is going to increase.

In Colorado, there was a 26 percent increase in youth (ages 12 to 17) monthly marijuana use in the three years after medical marijuana was commercialized (2009) compared to the three years prior to commercialization, according to “The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact”.

The article also states where students are getting their marijuana:

  • 38 percent reported friends who obtained it legally
  • 22 percent reported from their parents
  • 22 percent reported from the black market
  • 9 percent reported from medical marijuana dispensaries
  • 4 percent reported from medical marijuana cardholders
  • 3 percent reported from retail marijuana stores

Lowered perception of harm

The majority of high school seniors do not think occasional marijuana smoking is harmful, with only 16.4 percent saying occasional use puts the user at great risk, compared to 27.4 percent five years ago, according to the 2014 Monitoring the Future Survey.

A lot of feedback we get from students is that marijuana use isn’t harmful since it’s already legal in some states. Currently, marijuana use is illegal for all those under 21 in all states.

According to a Time.com article, a Colorado state panel that was set up to review the health effects of marijuana warned citizens about the dangers of marijuana use during adolescence and young adulthood:

“Youth marijuana use is associated with higher future risk of using other drugs, including alcohol, tobacco, opioids, methamphetamine and cocaine. Use by teens is also associated with decreased school performance and memory impairments that last as long as 28 days after use. There is also a demonstrated correlation between early and heavy marijuana use and the development of psychotic symptoms and disorders like schizophrenia in adulthood among certain populations.”

In addition, according to the Dunedin Study, which followed 1,037 individuals from birth (1972/1973) to age 38, persistent marijuana use had serious effects on users, especially with those who started using during their youth. Persistent cannabis use was associated with neuropsychological decline broadly across domains of functioning. Impairment was concentrated among adolescent-onset marijuana users, with more persistent use associated with greater decline. Further, stopping marijuana use did not fully restore neuropsychological functioning among adolescent-onset cannabis users.

It’s important that these negative impacts of youth marijuana use be known. Even if marijuana use is legalized in all 50 states,it’s critical that we protect our youth from the damaging effects of marijuana use.

What can you do?