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Your Teen & Marijuana

Nearly 4 out of 10 students, grades 9-12, have tried marijuana.* Even if you don't think your child is experimenting, it's important to talk to them about the risks and consequences of marijuana use. Marijuana use changes teens' brains, bodies, and behaviors. Help Maine teens have safe, healthy and successful futures.

5 Key Messages for Parents about Marijuana and Tips for Talking to Your Teen

IMPAIRMENT: Marijuana use lowers teens' good judgment and self-control. This may lead to bad decisions and risky behavior.

  • Heavy marijuana use is linked to an increased risk of a motor vehicle crashes. 1

  • Nationally, in 2011, 57 % of Emergency Department visits for illicit drug use among 12-24 year olds involved marijuana. 2

  • Using marijuana weekly or more has also been shown to double a teen's risk of depression or anxiety. 3, 4


HEALTH: Your teen only has one brain and one body. Marijuana use damages both in a way that can make problems for them now and in the future.

  • Studies indicate that problems with attention, learning, memory and processing speeds can be associated with heavy marijuana use during adolescence. 5, 6

  • The amount of tar inhaled by marijuana smokers and the level of carbon monoxide absorbed are three to five times greater than from tobacco smoke. 7

  • Marijuana contains more cancer causing chemicals than tobacco. Marijuana smokers inhale deeply and hold the smoke in their lungs longer which may increase their risk for developing lung cancer.8

  • Recent studies have shown a link between frequent marijuana use and the occurrence of testicular cancer.9


FUTURE SUCCESS: Marijuana use keeps teens from doing their best in school, work, and learning new skills. This affects them for the rest of their life.

  • Marijuana use in teens has been linked to lower academic performance and reduced job prospects.10

  • Heavy marijuana users experience attention and memory problems which last beyond the time when they are high. Studies indicate these problems can worsen with years of regular use. 11


ADDICTION: Teens who use marijuana are at an increased risk for addiction which leads to health and safety risks.

  • Research has established that marijuana is addictive and that it is three times more likely to lead to dependence among adolescents than adults. 12

  • About 1 in 6 of those who start using marijuana in their teens develop addiction. 13

  • Nationally, in 2011, 872,000 persons reported receiving treatment for marijuana use. 14


HARM: : Marijuana is a harmful drug. It is stronger than in the past, contains dangerous chemicals, and can be laced with other drugs. Teens who use marijuana can't know for sure what they are putting into their bodies and how it will affect them.

  • Today's marijuana is far more potent: The average THC content in marijuana has risen from under 4% in 1983 to more than 10% in 2008. 15

  • Greater marijuana potency means a smaller amount can make someone higher, faster- and perhaps far more intoxicated than they can handle. 16

  • Marijuana users risk exposure to dangerous pesticides which pose a significant risk to human health. 17

Reference List (PDF)

Tips for Talking to Your Teen about Marijuana

  1. Talk to your child about marijuana BEFORE you suspect they are experimenting. Studies show that youth are most likely to initiate marijuana use between the ages of 13 and 15 - and during this time you have the most influence over their behavior. After age 15, teens tend to base their decisions more on peer influence1.

  2. Before you talk to your teen, make sure you speak their language. Check out our teen room for insight into modern marijuana lingo and paraphernalia, and tips for recognizing the obvious and not-so-obvious signs of teen marijuana use.

  3. If you think your teen has been using marijuana, ask them about it immediately. Kids say that losing their parents' respect and trust are the most important reasons not to use drugs.

  4. Help your teen to understand ALL of the consequences of marijuana use - both physical and legal. In Maine, possession of less than 2.5 ounces of marijuana is a civil violation with a fine ranging from $350-$1000. Possession of more than 2.5 ounces is a misdemeanor or felony, and is punishable with jail time.

1. de la Flor, A. (2009) Early intervention can reduce marijuana use initiation among youth. CADCA National Coalition Institute's Research into Action.

* Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey, 2011