In the United States, 33 states and the District of Columbia have passed medical cannabis laws, while 10 states and the District of Columbia have legalized the recreational use of cannabis for adults aged 21+.
While numerous studies have proven that cannabis has medicinal benefits for adults, the human brain is under construction and susceptible to damage until we reach our 20s. A Duke University study found adolescents may be uniquely susceptible to lasting neurological damage from cannabis use.
In teens, the endocannabinoid system, which regulates physiological and cognitive processes along with mediating the effects of cannabis, is immature. Teens can not only damage their brain’s development by using cannabis, but they are more susceptible to unpleasant side effects like anxiety, paranoia and nausea.
Besides health and developmental risks, underage cannabis use can:
- result in legal consequences
- contribute to poor performance in school
- result in chronic use
- affect or prevent participation in sports, clubs and hobbies and damage social relationships with family and peers.
Under the recommendation of physicians, some teens and adolescents use medical cannabis to treat chronic pain, seizures and other debilitating conditions. If a child or teen is seeking cannabis for medical purposes, they should consult with a physician and consult their state laws.
For more information and research on cannabis, review these resources.
How to Prevent Child Exposure to Cannabis & Accidental Ingestion
- Always keep cannabis out of reach of children, preferably in a locked box or cabinet. Don’t leave cannabis out on a countertop, table or bedside when anticipating future use – make sure to put it away and out of reach of children, every time.
- Talk to kids about cannabis. as with all medicine, talk to kids about cannabis and proper handling. Let them know cannabis is an adult-only product, and why.
- Be a good host. Ask visitors to keep cannabis products stored safely, and inform visitors with kids that cannabis is present in your home. Educate your friends and family about how to talk to their own kids about cannabis.
- Ask before they go. When sending your kid to another person’s home, ask if cannabis is present in their home and what safety precautions are in place along with your usual safety checks.
- In case of accidental digestion, call the Poison Help Center at 800-222-1222 right away. Save the number to your phone and post it somewhere visible in your home for quick access in case of an emergency.
Sources: Children’s Hospital Colorado, Colorado Department of Health and Environment, Illinois Department of Human Services