What to Know

Parents, caregivers, and other trusted adults play an important role in helping youth and young adults think about the decisions they make now and in the future. Use of substances, including cannabis, presents risks and can interfere in the achievement of their short and long-term goals.

As parents and caregivers, having open and honest conversations with your child is important in helping them make good decisions. The first step is knowing the basics of cannabis, understanding the different methods of use, and being prepared to have conversations early and often.

There are many resources available that can help you:

  • Know the laws regarding cannabis use
  • Learn about cannabis, the types of products and methods of use, and THC concentration
  • Understand the health and development risks of youth cannabis use
  • Talk to your child about cannabis

Sections of this website provide information about the laws, cannabis basics, and health and safety issues. Other resources include the LearnAboutCannabisWA website and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, to name a couple.

To help you know if your child is using cannabis, it’s important to recognize smoking and vaping devices and cannabis packaging. Cannabis-infused edibles can look like non-cannabis products, but packaging requirements (for state-regulated products) can help you to recognize foods that contain cannabis.

The Risks
Youth may hear that cannabis is “harmless.” However, using cannabis at a young age, using it often and long-term, and using cannabis with high concentrations of THC all put youth at higher risk of long-term health and social problems.

Because brain development continues through at least age 25, teen brains are particularly vulnerable to the negative health effects of cannabis use. Potential risks and harms include:

  • Difficulty with attention, learning and memory, which raises youth at risk for academic failure and increases the risk of dropping out
  • Distorted thinking and perception, such as exaggerated or irrational thoughts or hallucinations
  • Mental health problems, such as psychosis, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, and suicide, especially if there’s a family history of mental illness
  • Difficulties with relationships
  • Slowed reaction time and coordination, making it dangerous to drive a car or operate machinery
  • Lung and respiratory problems if cannabis is smoked or vaped.
  • Increased risk of developing cannabis use disorder (CUD). A 2021 study found that about 11% of adolescents (ages 12-17) developed CUD within 12 months of their first use, versus about 6% of young adults (ages 18-25).


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