Teens + Marijuana

Besides alcohol, marijuana is the most popular drug of choice in the United States. It looks like dried parsley with stems and seeds and is green, brown or grey. Most drug use begins with marijuana, and leads to more serious drugs. Users smoke it, roll it in cigarette papers, hollowed-out cigars (blunts), pipes or water pipes (bongs). It can be mixed into foods (brownies) or brewed as a tea. Since becoming legal in the state of Colorado, it’s also available in a wide variety of edibles, many of which resemble mass produced snacks and candy.

Unlike when we were growing up, there are now studies that show how marijuana can have long-term negative effects on the brain.  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 amotivational 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.

Slang Dictionary:

Back in the day, we called marijuana pot, weed and Mary Jane.  But you won’t believe how many slang terms there are now!  Here’s a great list that can help you recognize current terminology and language about marijuana and its’ many forms.

Symptoms:

  • Affects mood and coordination. Can cause mood swings from happy to depressed
  • Increases appetite. Causes “the munchies”
  • Elevates heart rate and blood pressure
  • Causes bloodshot eyes
  • Can cause paranoia or mild hallucinations

Dangers:

  • Known to create psychological dependence in teens, as a stress reliever or “feel good” solution
  • The body can demand more and more in order to achieve the same level of “high”
  • Usually leads to more drug experimentation
  • Significantly more potent than marijuana of the past, with dramatically stronger effects
  • Colorado pot is considered to be the “most powerful” in the world, with THC levels being as high at 29.4%.  The Dutch government bans pot at a level higher than 15%

Talking About Marijuana

Marijuana is now legal in Colorado for anyone 21 years of age of older. That means there’s potential for easier access to marijuana. It also means it’s more important than ever for parents to have the “marijuana conversation” with their kids—especially since there are a lot of misconceptions about marijuana. The good news is, teens actually do listen to their parents, and more than you think!

  1. It’s never too early to talk to your child about marijuana. Middle school children are trying marijuana, especially in edible forms, which can resemble cookies and candy.
  2. Ask what they think they know about marijuana, and then share facts with them. Most kids don’t think it can be addictive, or that it can hurt brain development. Take the time to do a little research before your conversation. Here’s a great fact sheet on the National Institute on Drug Abuse website and lots of information at www.wcpreventionpartners.org
  3. Colorado pot is considered to be the “most powerful” in the world, with THC levels being as high at 29.4%.  The Dutch government bans pot at a level higher than 15%.  This creates even more danger for young developing brains.
  4. Look for “teachable moments.” There are lots of stories about marijuana in the news. When you see one, ask your child what they think about the story. Share your thoughts and feelings about it.
  5. State your expectations clearly. Let them know marijuana use is not acceptable, and let them know the consequences if they do use it.
  6. Discuss how marijuana can limit their future. Drug use can jeopardize a scholarship, keep them off a sports team, hurt their grades and even result in an arrest, which could lead to a permanent criminal record.
  7. One conversation isn’t enough. Make sure you bring up the topic every month or two. It’s important to do occasional “touch bases” about topics like marijuana, alcohol and other drugs.
  8. Set a good example. If you use marijuana yourself, refrain from using in front of your children. Make sure you keep it safely locked away, so your kids (or their friends) can’t access it. This should also be done with alcohol and prescription drugs.
  9. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you’re concerned that your teen is using marijuana, there are lots of local resources you can turn to. Calling the United Way Hotline at 2-1-1 is a great place to start. North Range Behavioral Health is also a great resource: northrange.org.

New Study Links Childhood Overeating and Binge Eating with Future Marijuana Use

A new study by JAMA Pediatrics presents some startling information:  children who overeat and binge—even if weight gain doesn’t result—will likely use marijuana and drugs in the future.  Researchers were investigating the association of overeating (eating to excess but without loss of control) and binge eating (overeating with loss of control) with a number of negative health outcomes.

More than 17,000 youths (ages 9-15 at enrollment) were questioned every year or two about their health status and behaviors for more than a decade. During this period:

  • 41% started using marijuana and 32% started using illicit drugs
  • Youth who reported overeating were 2.7 times more likely to start using marijuana or other drugs
  • Binge eaters were 1.9 times more likely to start using drugs compared to their peers
  • Neither binge eating or overeating was associated with binge drinking

Q&A:  Marijuana + Driving

Q: How does marijuana affect my ability to drive?

A: You cannot judge your own level of impairment. Any amount of marijuana consumption puts you at risk of driving impaired.

Q: Is there a legal limit for marijuana impairment while operating a vehicle?

A: Colorado law specifies that drivers with five nanograms of active tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in their whole blood can be prosecuted for driving under the influence (DUI). However, no matter the level of THC, law enforcement officers base arrests on observed impairment.

Q: What if I use marijuana medicinally?

A: If a substance has impaired your ability to operate a motor vehicle it is illegal for you to be driving, even if that substance is prescribed or legally acquired.

Q: Are there additional penalties for marijuana-impaired driving if there are children in the vehicle?

A: Additional charges for impaired drivers include child abuse if children are present in the vehicle.

Q: Is it legal to have marijuana or marijuana paraphernalia in the passenger cabin of the vehicle?

A: Colorado’s open container law makes it illegal to have marijuana in the passenger area of a vehicle if it is in an open container, container with a broken seal, or if there is evidence marijuana has been consumed. It is also illegal to consume marijuana on any public roadway.

Q: How can law enforcement determine if I am impaired by the use of marijuana?

A: Colorado Law Enforcement Officers are trained in the detection of impairment caused by drugs. Many Colorado Law Enforcement Officers have received advanced training in Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE). Across the state of Colorado law enforcement agencies have specially trained Drug Recognition Experts (DRE) on staff that can detect impairment from a variety of substances.

Q: What if I refuse to take a blood test to detect THC?

A: Colorado revokes driving privileges for any individual who fails to cooperate with the chemical testing process requested by an officer during the investigation of an alcohol or drug-related DUI arrest. Any driver who refuses to take a blood test will immediately be considered a high-risk driver. Consequences include: mandatory ignition interlock for two years, and level two alcohol education and therapy classes as specified by law. These penalties are administrative, and are applied regardless of a criminal conviction.

Q: How do marijuana-impaired violations differ between the Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles and Colorado courts?

A: Like any other substance, marijuana-impaired infractions result in administrative and criminal sanctions. Click here for more information.

Q: Are there stricter penalties for those individuals who are arrested driving under the influence of a combination of marijuana and alcohol or other drugs?

A: The penalties are the same regardless of the substance, or combination of substances. However, when combining substances, there is a greater degree of impairment. This significantly increases the chances of crashes, penalties and charges.

No Easy Answers for DUI Concerns As Marijuana Gains Support