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Cannabis use is harmful to the developing brain, and youth that use Marijuana & THC increase their risk of negative outcomes. 
Marijuana and Adolescent Brain Development 

The brain actively develops until around age 25. Marijuana use during adolescence and young adulthood may harm the developing brain

The NIH states that regular marijuana use can reduce IQ by 8 points and may be irreversible; it also impairs memory and learning.


Chronic marijuana use is associated with cognitive impairment, worsened academic performance, and reduced educational attainment.

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“Adolescence is the absolute worst time to introduce mind-altering drugs, such as marijuana, because it can disrupt development. Think of the teen years as the last golden opportunity to make the brain as healthy and smart as possible.

- Krista Lisdahl, PhD, Director, Brain Imaging and Neuropsychology Lab University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

Marijuana's Effect on Youth Mental Health 

In users aged 12-17, substance use disorders are Twice as Prevalent in Marijuana users than users of nicotine, alcohol and prescription drug misusers.

Cannabis Use Disorder in young people in “legal" states grew 25% following legalization.

Adolescent marijuana use is associated with an increased risk for depression, suicide, and psychosis. Risk increases as use increases.

Teens age 12-15, Marijuana use in those who weren’t depressed before, increased risk of suicide attempt 7.5-fold.

Mental Illness can be brought on or made

worse by using THC:

1.  Psychosis       

2. Schizophrenia

Using marijuana with THC content over 10% increases risk of a psychotic disorder by 4-5 fold.

Marijuana and Mental Health

  • 4.8 Million Americans meet the criteria for a Marijuana Use Disorder (includes people12 or older)

  • Young people who use marijuana are 5-7 times more likely than adults to develop a drug problem.

  • 17% of teenagers who experiment with Marijuana become addicted.

  • 3 out of 10 Cannabis users develop a Cannabis Use Disorder.

  • Parents who use marijuana increase the likely hood that their children will use and misuse marijuana, tobacco and alcohol. 

Marijuana and Health Effects

Lung Health

In many cases, marijuana is smoked in:

  • joints (hand-rolled cigarettes),

  • bongs (pipes or water pipes),

  • bowls, or

  • blunts (cigars or cigar wrappers that have been partly or completely refilled with marijuana).


Smoked marijuana, regardless of how it is smoked, can harm lung tissues and cause scarring and damage to small blood vessels.


Smoke from marijuana has many of the same toxins, irritants, and carcinogens (cancer-causing chemicals) as tobacco smoke.Smoking marijuana can also lead to a greater risk of bronchitis, cough, and mucus production, though these symptoms generally improve when marijuana smokers quit.


More research is needed to understand the specific effects marijuana smoking may have on lung cancer and other respiratory diseases like emphysema (lung condition that causes shortness of breath) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Heart Health

Marijuana can make the heart beat faster and can make blood pressure higher immediately after use. It could also lead to increased risk of stroke, heart disease, and other vascular diseases. Most of the scientific studies linking marijuana to heart attacks and strokes are based on reports from people who smoked marijuana (as opposed to other methods of using it). Smoked marijuana delivers tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other cannabinoids to the body. Marijuana smoke also delivers many of the same substances researchers have found in tobacco smoke—these substances are harmful to the lungs and cardiovascular system.

It is hard to separate the effects of marijuana chemicals on the cardiovascular system from those caused by the irritants and other chemicals that are present in the smoke. More research is needed to understand the full impact of marijuana use on the cardiovascular system to determine if marijuana use leads to higher risk of death.

Secondhand Marijuana Smoke

The known risks of secondhand exposure to tobacco smoke—including risks to the heart and lungsraise questions about whether secondhand exposure to marijuana smoke causes similar health risks. Secondhand marijuana smoke contains many of the same toxic and cancer-causing chemicals found in tobacco smoke and contains some of those chemicals in higher amounts.


Secondhand marijuana smoke also contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound responsible for most of marijuana’s psychoactive effects (or the “high”). THC can be passed to infants and children through secondhand smoke, and people exposed to secondhand marijuana smoke can experience psychoactive effects, such as feeling high. Recent studies have found strong associations between reports of having someone in the home who uses marijuana (e.g., a parent, relative, or caretaker) and the child having detectable levels of THC. Children exposed to THC are potentially at risk for negative health effects. More research is needed to understand how secondhand marijuana exposure may affect children. Other research shows that marijuana use during adolescence can impact the developing teenage brain and cause problems with attention, motivation, and memory. 


Edibles, or food and drink products infused with marijuana, have some different risks than smoked marijuana, including a greater risk of poisoning. Unlike smoked marijuana, edibles can:

  • Take from 30 minutes to 2 hours to take effect, so some people may eat too much, which can lead to poisoning and/or serious injury.

  • Cause intoxicating effects that last longer than expected, depending on the amount ingested, the last food eaten, and medications or alcohol used at the same time.

  • Be unpredictable. The amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), or the concentration or strength, is very difficult to measure and is often unknown in edible products. Many people who use edibles can be caught off-guard by their strength and long-lasting effects.


Children, adults, and pets can mistake marijuana products, particularly edibles, for regular food or candy. Consuming marijuana can make children very sick. They may have problems walking or sitting up or may have a hard time breathing. Since marijuana use has been legalized in some states, accidental marijuana poisonings in children have increased, sometimes requiring visits to the emergency room or hospitalization.

Risk of Using Other Drugs

Researchers disagree on whether marijuana is a “gateway drug” — the idea that marijuana use leads a person to use other more dangerous drugs, like cocaine or heroin. However, there is limited evidence suggesting that using marijuana increases the risk of using other drugs.


Most people who use marijuana do not go on to use other, “harder” drugs. People who use marijuana and do go on to use other drugs (including alcohol and tobacco) may have a higher risk of dependence or addiction to those drugs, especially if they started using marijuana at an early age and use it frequently.


People of any age, sex, or economic status can develop a substance use disorder for marijuana or other drugs. The following things can affect the likelihood of substance use disorder:

  • Family history

  • Having another mental health illness (such as anxiety or depression)

  • Peer pressure

  • Loneliness or social isolation

  • Lack of family involvement

  • Drug availability

  • Socioeconomic status

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