Conflicting Messages About Marijuana for Teens

By: Nomie Kettering

Until recently, teens got one message from adults about marijuana: It’s illegal. Now, it’s not illegal in Colorado and Washington, and more states are considering legalization. So the message from adults is becoming, “Teens, you shouldn’t do it, but as an adult, I am supporting legalization.”

It’s a confusing message for teens. And it’s challenging for educators, as explored in a recent article in the New York Times. Educators are focusing on the health aspects of marijuana use, instead of legalization. Which is a good thing, since more and more research is being done and startling facts are coming to light.

Young brains continue to develop well into the early 20s. Studies now show that marijuana, like alcohol, has a negative impact on developing brains.

For example, researchers at Northwestern University explored the relationship between the casual use of marijuana and brain changes for young adults. They used magnetic resonance imaging to analyze different parts of the brain. Those who used cannabis just once or twice a week showed significant abnormalities in two significant brain structures. The areas that were affected are the ones responsible for processing emotions, making decisions and motivation. Just occasional use can cause damage to these pretty important parts of the brain.

Researchers believe casual marijuana use among teens can also result in a motivational syndrome, a psychological condition that can cause people to become less oriented toward their goals and purposes in life. Which is hard enough with your ordinary teen-but they usually grow out of it. BUT with casual marijuana use, they might not.

It’s important for parents to have conversations with their teens about marijuana. Before they do, it’s a good idea to research the facts about today’s marijuana—which is considered to be the most powerful in the world— and the impact is has on young brains. Here’s a great fact sheet on the National Institute on Drug Abuse website and lots of information at

Nomie Ketterling and her husband Mike are Grand Marshalls of the 2014 Greeley Independence Stampede. She is the Coordinator for Weld County Prevention Partners, an avid community volunteer and “mom” to tow rescue dogs, Logan and Levi.