Kids should know the facts about marijuana use

Published 8:45 am Sunday, May 29, 2011

By Maryanne Law, Families First

Question: We’re having a discussion about marijuana at our house, and my kids don’t seem to think it’s a dangerous drug. What are the facts?

Maryanne Law

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Answer: In the United States, and in Minnesota, marijuana is the most commonly used drug besides alcohol. Research has shown marijuana use has serious and harmful effects.

Kids in school undermine their learning by using marijuana, because it can cause difficulty in speaking, listening, thinking, remembering, problem solving and forming concepts. I will never forget my friendship with a young woman in her 20s who would write out her thoughts during group conversations because marijuana use had left her with a verbal handicap; although she was intelligent, it took her several minutes to actually speak her thoughts. By the time she could say the words she was thinking, people would be talking about other things. She was also the person who explained how marijuana deceives users into thinking they are wonderfully profound. She remembered having a truly deep revelation when on marijuana. She actually wrote it down so as not to forget it. A few days later, when she was clear-headed, she found the message. She had written, “This room smells bad.”

Marijuana impairs complex motor skills and judgment of speed and time. Marijuana is often involved in automobile accidents and adversely affects performance of other complex tasks. Teenagers who are just mastering their driving skills, and are often using their cars for socializing, become accidents waiting to happen when they use marijuana, alcohol or both.

Heavy chronic use of marijuana, with or without other illicit drugs, is correlated with higher levels of truancy, fighting, delinquency, arrests and health problems of adolescents. Marijuana smoke contains some of the same carcinogens and toxic particulates as tobacco, sometimes in higher concentrations. Daily use of one to three joints appears to produce the same lung diseases (bronchitis, emphysema and bronchial asthma) and potential cancer risk as smoking five times as many cigarettes.

Marijuana is a “gateway drug,” which means that users often go on to experiment with other drugs, such as crack, cocaine or meth. The Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse research indicates that kids who get high on marijuana are 85 times more likely to use other drugs than their non-using classmates.

If you would like to talk with a parenting specialist about the challenges in raising children, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine at 888-584-2204/Línea de Apoyo at 877-434-9528. For free emergency child care call Crisis Nursery at 877-434-9599. Check out

Maryanne Law is the executive director of the Parenting Resource Center in Austin.