Cannabis—legal or otherwise—is a hot topic. Parents who provide their kids with balanced information about the effects associated with cannabis (often called marijuana) can help them make informed decisions. It’s more important than ever for parents to protect their kids’ health and development by addressing this issue early and often. That’s why we created this talk kit. We want to help families navigate through a changing cannabis landscape—one that includes new policies like legalization and regulation, as well as new products, like “shatter” and “edible” candies and cookies. Here, you’ll learn how to set the stage to have an open dialogue with your teen—about any issue, but cannabis in particular. Your teens are likely asking you some tough questions and challenging you on the topic of cannabis. We’ve worked with top experts in health and parenting to help you talk with your teen. Believe it or not, you are one of the most powerful influences in your child’s life. More than friends. More than TV. More than celebrities.

Talking with teenagers about drugs

Between illegal substances and prescription medications it may be hard to know where to start talking about drugs. But drugs can be dangerous and some teenagers are not aware of all the risks.

Start the conversation early and give information before your teen needs to ask

Talking with your teens

It’s very important to talk with your teens about drugs because:

  • they may hear wrong information about drugs from their friends, the media or other adults
  • they (or you) may be concerned about someone else who is using drugs
  • your teens may be using drugs and might need help to stop
  • your teen may be asking questions and you want to give them reasons to say no

Talk with your children about drugs regularly, before there is an urgent need to do so.

Tips for talking about drugs

There is no script for talking with teens, but here are a few tips for talking with them about drugs:

  • plan the main points you want to discuss, rather than speaking on impulse
  • avoid saying everything you think all at once
  • look for opportunities to mention drug use, like when you discuss school or current events
  • offer them control and let them pick the time and place
  • give your teen room to participate and ask questions
  • respect their independence
  • respect their opinion
  • avoid being judgmental
  • listen to them, because if you are a good listener they may be more inclined to trust your input
  • tell them you are trying to help them make good decisions by giving them information that they may not already know
  • be clear about why you are worried and tell them that your main concern is for their well-being
  • focus on facts rather than emotions

If your teenager is using drugs you may feel anger, sadness, fear or confusion. Those are natural reactions. But talking about the issue is more productive than talking about your feelings.

Points about cannabis

Share these facts about the health effects of cannabis:

  • cannabis can make you feel relaxed and happy, but it can also
    • harm your ability to think and make decisions
    • harm your ability to concentrate and remember
    • slow your reaction time
    • affect your ability to drive
    • impair performance in sports and school
  • impairment can last for more than 24 hours after use, well after other effects have faded
  • with long-term, frequent and heavy use some of these and other effects may continue even after you stop using and may not be reversible
  • the health risks related to cannabis use are higher
    • the more often and the longer you use it
    • the younger you are when you start using it
  • cannabis has become much more potent in recent years, which could increase health risks
  • cannabis can be addictive and about 1 in 9 people who use cannabis will become addicted
    • the risk rises to about 1 in 6 for people who start using cannabis as a teen
  • when smoked, cannabis can cause breathing problems, as the smoke has chemicals that can damage your lungs

Cannabis use has also been linked to the development of psychosis and schizophrenia. This is especially true:

  • when use begins in adolescence
  • where there is a family history of these illnesses

Slang terms for cannabis

Including the word term ‘marijuana,’ cannabis may be known by different names across different:

  • cultures
  • communities
  • social groups

These names include:

A portion of cannabis prepared for smoking may be called a:


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