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Underage Cannabis Prevention & Awareness

In July 2021, Connecticut legalized adult cannabis use for those age 21 and older. While the new regulations can make cannabis consumption safer for adult users, it remains just as dangerous for adolescents and teens, whose brains are still developing. When young people use cannabis regularly, it can set them up for a lifetime of impaired memory, reduced cognitive abilities, mental health issues, and substance misuse problems. The minimum legal age of 21 protects them from both short- and long-term risks.

Trying cannabis at a young age increases the likelihood—and the speed—of developing a substance use disorder.

  1. Adolescents are 4 to 7 times more likely to develop cannabis use disorder than adults
  2. 11% of adolescent users become addicted to cannabis within a year of first trying it
  3. Adolescent cannabis users are 104 times more likely to use cocaine than their peers
  4. Adolescent cannabis users are 130% more likely to misuse opioids than their peers

Cannabis can cause significant, irreversible changes to the developing brain, including:

  1. A permanent loss of up to 8 IQ points
  2. Reduced attention and memory—even after a month of abstinence
  3. Reduced volume of brain regions involved in decision-making, motivation, and impulse control

Driving and cannabis use make a dangerous combination:

  1. Drivers show slower reactions and decreased coordination when under the influence of cannabis
  2. Young drivers in particular have double the risk of car accidents when they drive under the influence of cannabis

Heavy cannabis use is linked to economic and legal problems, including:

  1. Lower income and greater welfare dependence
  2. Higher unemployment rates
  3. Increased criminal behavior

Chronic cannabis use impairs learning, causing:

  1. Declines in performance at school
  2. More absences from school
  3. Reduced chances of graduating and/or attaining a degree

Cannabis use has negative effects on mental health, and is linked to:

  1. An increased risk for, and earlier onset of, psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia, with higher risks at younger ages
  2. An increased risk of depression
  3. Increased rates of suicide attempts

Cannabis carries a variety of health risks:

  1. The same breathing problems caused by smoking cigarettes, such as asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema, can be caused by cannabis
  2. Toxins and carcinogens increase the risk of cancers—of the head, neck, lungs, and respiratory tract—among cannabis users
  3. The immune system can be weakened or suppressed by extended cannabis use

For Parents

Talking with Your Child About Cannabis

Parents are the biggest influence in their children’s lives, which is why it’s so important to have frequent discussions about the risks of cannabis. Easy availability and new legalization laws can normalize cannabis use in the eyes of adolescents and teens—be the voice that helps them second-guess common misconceptions about underage use!

  1. Keep an open door, and an open mind. Foster a strong relationship and healthy communication with your child. They’ll be more likely to talk to you—and more likely to listen.
  2. Start early. Today’s teens are even more likely to try cannabis than they are to smoke cigarettes, so start the conversation before you think they’ll have the chance to experiment.
  3. Bust the myths. Adolescents and teens tend to see cannabis as a harmless drug because it is “natural.” Educate them about the health risks and possible long-term effects.
  4. Set the rules. Set clear, specific rules about—and consequences for—using cannabis. Ensure that your rules are enforceable: a lack of consistency sends mixed messages to your child.
  5. Keep checking in. Open, ongoing conversation is a reminder that your child has a caring person they can turn to with questions or if problems arise.

Resources for Parents:

For Dispensaries

Merchants: Do Your Part to Prevent Underage Cannabis Sales

It’s the Law! Adopting responsible policies and practices regarding cannabis sales to underage youth is good for your business—and your community.

  1. Create a detailed written policy that includes:
    • How and when ID checks are to be performed
    • What forms of ID are acceptable
    • What to look for when checking an ID
    • When a sale should be refused
    • The consequences for failing to perform an ID check
  2. Train all employees to follow this policy and review it with them periodically.
  3. Post signs to show customers that you are committed to checking IDs.

Resources for Dispensary Owners & Employees:


Learn More About Underage Cannabis Use

Resources for Quitting

If you or someone you love is struggling with cannabis, help is available.

Here’s where to start in Connecticut: