By Priscilla Behnke
There is a lot of information out there about marijuana. It can be overwhelming trying to navigate through it all. Here are five things you should know and consider when it comes to Marijuana and your teen.
1. The argument for legalization is often conflated with the argument that it’s safe. There is a constitutional argument for legalization, and it’s a fair one to have. It does not mean that a 13-year-old will be free from harm if he smokes his uncle’s medical marijuana because he’s bored. If you are using medical marijuana treat it like you would other prescriptions.
2. The brain uses natural chemicals on particular brain receptors for brain development. THC from marijuana works by over-activating the parts of the brain that contain most of these receptors. This negatively affects thinking and problem-solving while impairing memory. We want our kids to be successful, and kids who get high have put themselves at a disadvantage in school.
3. Maricopa youth are getting their weed from friends. Both the 2016 Arizona Youth Survey and the Cenpatico Community Survey revealed friends are the No. 1 source of marijuana for Maricopa teens. It isn’t an obscure dealer behind the gas station. It’s their buddy. Know your kids’ friends. Encourage them to interact with kids who are positive. Youth groups, sports and clubs are great options.
4. Parents are the No. 1 influencer in a child’s life. As they get older and seek more autonomy, it may not feel like it. However, every year the Arizona Youth Survey is released it echoes what adolescence experts are telling us – parents have more influence over their child’s value development than friends and media.
5. The average age of first use for marijuana in Maricopa is 11. You read that correctly, 11 years old. The Arizona Youth Survey asks teens who have used marijuana how old they were the first time they used it. You don’t want to wait until your child is a 16-year-old to have the drug and alcohol discussion. You want to start in elementary school.
The Be Awesome Youth Coalition is dedicated to developing confident, connected and successful youth. For more information and updates, like The Be Awesome Youth Coalition on Facebook.
Priscilla Benhke is program director for Maricopa CAASA and Be Awesome Coalition.
This column appears in the August issue of InMaricopa.