Neal Smith

Most studies indicate that adolescent use of Marijuana is not a good thing as in order to use Marijuana responsibly, one must have at least a degree of maturity. Additionally, as a child is still growing, use of any psychoactive substance is physically harmful. As maturity hits each individual at a different time, it’s hard to say what age is ok for an individual to ingest Marijuana, but because any legal reforms have to have a minimum age, and if Marijuana is going to be treated like alcohol, 21 is the arbitrary age chosen. 18 would probably be all right, but I doubt if official support for that lower age would be obtained.

For years we’ve heard prohibitionists use youth Marijuana use as an excuse to avoid reforming bad policies. It’s those policies of refusing to tell kids the truth about Marijuana and other psychoactive substances that have exacerbated the problem. Children…and adults for that matter…are better off knowing the truth about Marijuana and drugs of abuse. When we don’t tell the truth, they’ll find out for themselves.

In some ways, refusal to tell kids the truth about Marijuana has led them to experiment with drugs of abuse. They find out that they’ve been lied to about Marijuana, that they didn’t go crazy or turn violent, and they think adults have lied to them about cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin. Sometimes they find out too late that chemical drugs of abuse are, in fact, dangerous, much more dangerous than Marijuana.

For those who may not know, Marijuana doesn’t kill brain cells, doesn’t cause insanity and doesn’t lead to other substances. It is not humanly possible to overdose. By far the worst effect of using Marijuana is the criminal penalties one faces if caught.

Clinical results are mixed as to whether Marijuana is bad for adolescents, and more research needs to be done. However, a number of studies are showing that kids who smoke pot early may develop neurocognitive problems as opposed to adult usage.

In a 2008 study, VA San Diego Healthcare System; determined:

…Given ongoing neuromaturation during youth, adolescents may be more vulnerable to potential consequences of marijuana use than adults. This is supported by rodent models, which show greater memory impairments in animals exposed to cannabinoids as adolescents relative to those exposed as adults. Further, adult humans who initiated use in early adolescence show greater dysfunction than those who began use later. Together, these results suggest that adolescents are more vulnerable than adults to neurocognitive abnormalities associated with chronic heavy marijuana use; however, the impact of preexisting risk factors is unknown. Adolescents demonstrate persisting deficits related to heavy marijuana use for at least six weeks following discontinuation, particularly in the domains of learning, memory, and working memory. Further, adolescents appear more adversely affected by heavy use than adults.

You can read the abstract of this study at

In September of 2010, results of a cognitive study found people who started smoking Marijuana before the age of 16 showed marked cognitive impairment.

Marijuana users show deficits in the ability to switch behavioral responses according to the context of a situation, also known as cognitive flexibility…Those participants who began using marijuana before the age of 16 and those who used the most marijuana showed the greatest impairment. “Our results provide further evidence that marijuana use has a direct effect on executive function, and that both age of onset and magnitude of marijuana use can significantly influence cognitive processing,” is the source of this information.


On the other side of the coin, there is some evidence that the neuroprotective qualities of Marijuana may shield youth from brain cell damage caused by alcohol. The jury is still out, but a study done in 2007 indicates that since it’s known that alcohol causes brain (hippocampal) damage, use of Marijuana may help that. From the Clinical Psychology News via

Teens who report heavy alcohol use have reduced hippocampal volume, compared with their nondrinking peers, but those who combine marijuana with heavy drinking do not show these abnormalities, Susan Tapert, Ph.D., reported at the annual conference of the EEG and Clinical Neuroscience Society.

“It’s possible there could be some neuroprotective effect of marijuana against the effects of alcohol,” said Dr. Tapert of the University of California, San Diego, noting that simultaneous marijuana and alcohol use has been shown to reduce blood alcohol levels.

However, another potential explanation is that “there may be competing pathologies that cancel each other out,” she said in an interview. “Microstructural hippocampal changes related to marijuana use may include increased glial proliferation and white matter density, as well as reduced gray matter density,” which might result in “relatively normal hippocampal volumes … despite functional pathology,” she wrote in a recent study (Neurotoxicol. Teratol. 2007;29:141-52). “This is speculative, and spectroscopic, diffusion, and segmentation studies will be needed to verify these impressions,” she stressed.

Find this study’s reference at:

It would obviously be better to deal with a teen’s alcohol problem, but one of Marijuana’s medic al abilities is as a neuroprotectant.

Children who have been treated for medical conditions with Cannabis have fared well. In early 2011 a two and a half year old boy was successfully treated for a brain tumor…with Marijuana. Little Cash Hyde was dying. The one thing he had going for him was he lived in Montana, a state which legally recognizes medical Marijuana.

Cash’s parents were there every step through his battle and watched as drugs prescribed by his doctors made him hallucinate and stop his heart. Cash’s dad says medical cannabis helped rebuild his organs that were damaged from the chemo, helped with his appetite and helped him sleep.

“I watched Cashy not be able to eat for over 40 days, live off nothing but fluid intravenously to the point where he couldn’t lift his head up off his pillow. I realized along the way in this journey that there is a quality of life that a lot of people do not have, and it’s because of the drugs that they’re given,” said Hyde.

More on this story may be read at:

Marijuana as a medicine for children needs to be used under the guidance of a physician. Rarely does a child in Montana smoke; they take Marijuana in baked goods, in a capsule or in a liquid. Nor does Montana, nor the other states that have medical Marijuana programs, have more than a handful of patients under 18.

It’s generally accepted that children shouldn’t smoke Marijuana. One of the problems of prohibition has been that children can easily procure Marijuana. Illegal dealers usually don’t ask for identification. In fact, most teens report Marijuana is easier to obtain than cigarettes or alcohol. Children shouldn’t smoke pot. What we’ve tried to do to stop them hasn’t worked. By regulating and taxing Marijuana like alcohol, we can keep kids from pot until they’re old enough to make a judgment on their own.