How legalization has altered marijuana education for teens

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As adult attitudes about use across the US continue to shift in favor of both medical and recreational legalization, it seems teenage marijuana views are evolving as well with fewer and fewer teenagers believing it's risky to use the drug.

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Despite the new ground broken by Smith and others, Smith acknowledged that pot research is in its infancy. With all the uncertainties and variances in the drug and the research surrounding it, we don't entirely understand many of marijuana's effects on our physiology or the potential health consequences of long term use.

Signs of Teenage Marijuana Use - Teens Smoking Pot | …

Regardless, dialogue about public health concerns among physicians, health officials and politicians, is an important step in educating the public about the potential health consequences for teenagers. In lieu of government guidance — aside from cautioning people on the addictive properties — Chaffee said she does the best she can to educate her patients, explaining to them that daily marijuana use at that age isn't without consequences.

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The scientists also found that the earlier a person used marijuana, the greater the changes were in their brain. Chaffee said a teenagers' physiology is especially susceptible to drug use — legal ones such as alcohol and nicotine included —because of the way their brains and psychology develop.

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"These structures were abnormally shaped in the two groups with daily marijuana use," Smith told VICE News, explaining that abnormal brain formation translated into poor performance on a battery of memory tests the patients underwent as well. "These shaped abnormalities statistically correlated, significantly correlated with memory assessments."

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Using a combination of fMRI brain scans, and memory tests, Smith and his team determined that heavy marijuana use during teenage years actually changes the way the part of our brain that handles working memory forms.

Fewer teens are getting high in Colorado now that weed's legal there.

When a teen patient checks in at the hospital, Dr. Chaffee said one of the first telltale signs of chronic marijuana use is the grade point average. Teenagers who smoke weed once and a while, Chaffee said, don't usually have a problem, but those who smoke every day can't focus in school.

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Chaffee's experience, however, may not necessarily translate to the majority of teenagers, who are using less marijuana post-legalization, according to Marsha Rosenbaum of the Drug Policy Alliance. The Colorado study indicated a slight decrease in high school kids who said they had smoked weed in the last 30 days, falling from 22 percent to 20 percent.

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“The chief of operations at the Drug Enforcement Administration on Wednesday called the legalization of marijuana at the state level “reckless and irresponsible,” warning that the movement to decriminalize the sale of pot in the United States will have severe consequences.”