In 2012, Washington joined Colorado as one of the first states in the U.S. to legalize the recreational use of cannabis with Initiative 502. According to the law, any adult over 21 years of age can purchase and use marijuana both for medical and non-medical purposes. But despite the age restriction and other strict regulations for possession and usage, a 2019 study published by JAMA Psychiatry found that problematic marijuana use increased by 25% in teens, 12 to 17, who live in states that have recreational marijuana legalization.

Teenagers and parents alike have many misconceptions when it comes to weed, including the belief that it is safe or has no long-term consequences because it is a legal substance. However, this increase in problematic usage could suggest a growing trend in teenage pot abuse.

Cannabis use in the U.S. is at the highest it’s been in 30 years, and teens today are far more likely to use weed than tobacco. Getting the facts about the effects of weed and talking about these risks with your child could prevent them from compromising their health – and their future.

What is problematic marijuana use?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, people who start using marijuana before the age of 18 are four to seven times more likely to develop problematic marijuana use than adults who start using.

Problematic marijuana use, or cannabis use disorder, is usually associated with dependence, or when a person feels symptoms of withdrawal when they aren’t using. In more severe cases, marijuana dependence can turn into a full-blown addiction when a person is unable to quit using – even when it starts to take a toll on their everyday life and responsibilities.

What are the effects of marijuana use on teens?

Because the human brain continues its development well into a person’s twenties, weed use – especially heavy use – in your child can have detrimental long-term effects on their overall health and well-being. In addition to putting them at risk for dependency or addiction, marijuana use in adolescents and teenagers has been linked to an increased risk of mental health issues like depression and anxiety, declines in school performance or loss of interest in social activities and serious legal ramifications that can follow them for a lifetime.

If you suspect your son or daughter is using weed, it’s essential that you discuss the dangers it can pose to their health and happiness. Having an open and honest conversation about marijuana can help your kid to make the right choices and avoid run-ins with the law down the road.