Effects on Youth

Use the Youth and Marijuana factsheet to learn more about marijuana health concerns and protecting children and youth from marijuana. 

Is marijuana more harmful to adolescents than adults?

Brain development is not complete until age 25. For the best chance to reach their full potential, youth should not use marijuana. Youth that begin using marijuana regularly are more likely to become addicted than those who wait until adulthood to use.1

Talk to youth about marijuana to help them better understand the risks of marijuana. Only about half of Colorado high school students think that regularly using marijuana is harmful.2 Youth who think marijuana is risky are much less likely to use marijuana regularly.2 

What is known about long-term health effects of marijuana on youth?

Because teens’ brain are still developing, they are at increased risk from marijuana use. Research suggests marijuana use by youth may result in:1
  • learning problems
  • memory issues
  • lower math and reading scores
Additionally, some mental health issues are more common for youth that use marijuana regularly.1 These may include:
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Psychotic symptoms (not knowing what is real, hallucinations and paranoia) 
  • Future use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs
The good news is that these problems get better when youth stop using marijuana.

What is known about effects of marijuana on the education of youth?

Youth that use pot regularly have lower scores in school.1 The Colorado Department of Education has developed student resources. More youth are getting in trouble for drugs at school, including pot.19

Since marijuana is still illegal outside Colorado, youth with marijuana charges may not get financial aid to help pay for college. Youth can lose Perkins Loans, Pell Grants, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, PLUS Loans, and Work-Study Programs (Section 484 subsection R of the Higher Education Act of 1998). Be sure youth understand that marijuana use can get in the way of paying for college.

What else could happen legally if my child is caught using marijuana?

Youth that break school policies on marijuana may be referred for drug counseling, be kicked off sports teams, suspended, expelled or face prosecution. Colorado laws state that youth with a Minor in Possession charge receive fines, public service, substance abuse education, loss of their driver's license, or misdemeanor/felony charges. As mentioned above, a charge could mean that youth lose financial aid opportunities. Additionally, marijuana use may result in losing a job since employers are still allowed to drug test.

How can I tell if my child is using marijuana?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the following are common signs to look for if parents suspect their child is using marijuana.25 He/she might:

  • Seem dizzy or uncoordinated
  • Seem silly and giggly for no reason
  • Have very red, bloodshot eyes
  • Have a hard time remembering things that just happened
  • Be in possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia, including pipes and rolling papers
  • Have an odor on clothes and in the bedroom
  • Use incense and other deodorizers
  • Use eye drops
  • Wear clothing or jewelry or have posters that promote drug use
  • Have unexplained use of money

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has developed these resources for parents on preventing under-age use of marijuana: