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Young people begin using marijuana for many reasons: curiosity, peer pressure and the desire to fit in with social environments. Those who have already begun to smoke cigarettes or use alcohol or both are at increased risk of using marijuana as well. Also, people who have untreated mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety or ADHD or have experienced trauma are at an increased risk of using marijuana or other drugs at an early age.
According to the 2015 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, underage youths with supportive parents, teachers, coaches and other adults are less likely to use marijuana. Morgan County Family and Consumer Sciences Agent Jennifer Cooley says the best actions for parents to take are:
First, be a good listener. Ask your child their opinion and understand their pressures.
Second, set clear expectations and boundaries. Let them know the consequences of their actions. Engage them in developing these tools together as a team, so they have an active role in directing their lives.
Finally, work with your children to build self-esteem and deal with peer pressure through focusing on your child’s strengths and goals. Never demean or insult your child. Support them with confidence-building activities and constructive feedback.
Besides possible health risks, there are strict legal consequences for using retail marijuana before the age of 21. Minors in possession of retail marijuana could be charged with Minor in Possession (MIP). This could result in misdemeanor and even felony charges. In addition, an MIP charge could be costly, including fines, loss of driver’s license, suspension and loss of financial aid for higher education.
The legalization of marijuana in Colorado has led to some confusion, which is why it is important to understand the law in its entirety. Retail marijuana can only be purchased by, in possession of, and/or used by individuals 21 years of age and older with a valid ID. The consumption of marijuana in any form — vaping, eating or smoking — isn’t allowed in public places; this law is only suited for usage on private property.
Also, marijuana is not federally legalized, therefore usage and possession are prohibited on federal land such as national parks. Marijuana must stay in the state of Colorado, so individuals can be charged with smuggling if they are transporting the marijuana via car, airplane or mail.
Finally, start the conversation early and revisit it as needed. Just like we educate our youths not to drink and drive, talk to them about driving under the influence of marijuana. If caught you could be charged with a DUI or, worst-case scenario, cause an accident that may hurt themselves and others.
For more information on the health effects or laws associated with marijuana and youth prevention, visit www.goodtoknowcolorado.com, an educational resource developed in collaboration with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Elbert County Extension is a cooperative effort between CSU Extension and Elbert County government. Sheila G. Kelley is the Colorado State University extension director for Elbert County. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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