Pot is Still Not Safe, or Legal, for Minors
Back in November, California voters approved Proposition 64, which legalized recreational use of marijuana. It won’t really be fully legalized until growers and retail outlets begin receiving the appropriate licensing, and state officials are busily working on regulations that will govern growth, sale, and transport of pot. But there will be a time, and it is quickly approaching, that marijuana use could be as common and widespread as having a beer.
For teens, this issue can get confusing. Since marijuana is a naturally-occurring plant, many people assume that it is totally and completely safe to use it at any age. However, much like alcohol and other drugs, it’s important to remember that the effects on a growing brain could vastly differ from those on an adult mind.
Most marijuana safety studies are conducted using adult subjects. So when you hear about how “safe” it is, those results apply to adult brains only. In fact, research on adolescent pot smokers clearly demonstrate a negative effect.
During adolescence, your brain is rapidly growing, changing, and forming new connections. Research has demonstrated that pot use during this time can change the structure of the brain, and that early marijuana use is a reliable predictor of poor academic performance and memory problems. These effects appear to stick around for life, too – not just when you’re stoned.
Aside from protecting your still-developing brain, there are other reasons to avoid marijuana until you’re older. State laws on its use have been established to mirror those of alcohol consumption. You will have to be 21 years old in order to purchase or use pot, and getting caught with it could result in fines, community service, or jail time. Of particular importance, the law bans the use of pot within 1,000 feet of schools.
Aside from health effects and legal ramifications, there are a few more things you should know. First, driving under the influence of any mind-altering substance is unequivocally dangerous. There’s just no away around it.
Second, much like alcohol use, smoking pot can and will leave you vulnerable to the motivations of those around you. The news has focused pretty heavily on issues regarding alcohol use and sexual consent lately. Those lessons also apply to any other situation in which you are overly “relaxed”, and your inhibitions or physical ability to escape the situation are impaired. Likewise, altering your judgment could lead you to believe that someone is consenting to a behavior, when in fact they are not.
As always, remember that there are plenty of healthy and responsible ways to relax and have fun. Keep an open line of communication with parents and other trusted adults, and talk to them if you’re concerned about your own behavior or a friend. Your teen years are some of the most fun and exciting of your life, but they’re also some of the most important. Allow yourself the time to fully grow and mature, and set yourself up for a successful life as an adult.