A Hempfest® Gut Check​

Researchers have found that marijuana is used safely, responsibly, and healthfully by many.

So, what’s the big deal about teens? Some teens get high, have fun with it, and think pot’s no big deal.

For them, getting high isn’t even close to an everyday thing and they don’t let it get in the way of school, sports, or other activities.

However, most of us know teens who get high a lot more often. For them, it is a big deal, particularly if their grades tank, they lose friends, have heavy duty arguments with their parents, and maybe get busted.

Doctors strongly urge teens to wait until they’re 21 or older before using pot. Why?

It’s because of what’s still developing in an adolescent’s brain.

Parts of the brain, the pre-frontal cortex for example, may not develop the way they’re supposed to if the person smokes a lot of pot while they’re a teen.

What does that mean? It may mean:

  • Problems with memory
  • Difficulty learning
  • A harder time planning
  • Struggling with solving problems

And here’s what makes it more serious. These problems may be permanent.

There’s more information to think about. Science suggests that teens who use a lot of pot have an increased likelihood of depression, anxiety, psychosis, or other mental illness. 

It’s a dilemma. So, here’s the deal. Getting high is fun, and especially for teens, it can be hard to turn down doing something that makes you feel good, that takes the edge off stress.

The reason adults smoke pot is because it’s fun for them too. So, if adults can have fun getting high, why can’t teens?

The answer is that people who wait until they’re adults before they begin getting high don’t face the risks teens face because their brains are now fully developed.

Here’s the bottom line:

  • Getting high is fun, it’s legal for adults, and it’s tempting for teens.
  • But, many teens decide to wait until they’re adults.
  • Some teens use pot, but only very occasionally.
  • People who begin getting high before they’re adults and do it frequently are risking a lot.



Written by Dr. Roger Roffman, professor emeritus, UW School of Social Work.

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