A person holding a lit marijuana cigarette.

Start talking today.

It’s not always possible to plan for a conversation about weed, and that’s okay. It’s easy to forget the power your words have on youth, so if you start a conversation and have to come back to it later, they’ll be listening. Talking with a nine-year-old is much different than talking with an 18-year-old, so check out Speak Now Colorado for tips on how to approach your conversation about weed and other substances. Find a time to start talking that works for both of you, leaving plenty of room for questions and answers.

A father and son conversing.

Share your words.

Your words do make a difference when it comes to youth and marijuana. Youth who have an adult they can talk to are less likely to use marijuana, so follow these tips and start the conversation now:

  • Set rules. Make your rules about marijuana clear and stick to them. By letting your child know what will happen if they don’t follow the rules, they’ll be more inclined to make responsible decisions. Youth with clear family rules about alcohol and drug use are less likely to use marijuana than those without clear rules.
  • Be a good listener. Make sure you’re not talking over or down to your child. When you allow youth to be heard, they’re more likely to hear what you have to say.
  • Focus on the good. Encourage young people to make decisions that help them achieve their goals and explain how marijuana can get in the way of those goals.
  • Learn more. Use this site as a resource so you can feel confident explaining the legal and health effects of underage marijuana use. Young people want to know the facts and be given the opportunity to make their own decision.
  • Remind youth that most of their peers choose not to use. One of the most powerful facts is that 4 out of 5 high schoolers make the decision not to use marijuana. Not everyone is doing it.
  • Tell them your opinions. Even if you use marijuana, tell youth how you feel about underage marijuana use. If you’re open about it, be clear about why you use marijuana and why you think they shouldn’t yet. Remember that your words have power — youth who know you’re against underage marijuana use are less likely to use it.
  • Keep the conversation going. The first talk should not be the only talk. Their friends, interests, and activities are changing all the time, so it’s important to communicate often about how marijuana can impact their life.
A teacher and students in a classroom.

How teachers, coaches, and family members can start the conversation.

This isn’t just a “marijuana conversation,” it’s a conversation about what youth need to succeed and what can get in their way. Young people pay attention to what you say and the example you set. You don’t have to be a parent to have an influence. Get the conversation going with these tips:

  • Breaking the rules has consequences. Emphasize the fact that breaking school rules can have consequences. They can be suspended, expelled, or kicked off a team. Outside of school, they can even be required to go to drug counseling or face legal prosecution. All of these consequences can impact their future goals.
  • Role models should be responsible. Remind them that they are role models to their peers, younger students, and siblings.
  • It has an effect on school and activities. Stress the fact that teens who use marijuana regularly may have trouble learning, memory issues, and lower math and reading scores. It can also affect their ability to learn new skills and affect athletic performance and coordination.
  • College dreams can be crushed. Students who use marijuana underage in high school and get a DUI or MIP could ruin their chances of getting financial aid for college. Talk to students who plan to participate in sports at the college level or those who have their hearts set on school, and let them know that they could be putting those dreams at serious risk.
  • Know what teens know about marijuana. Vaping and edibles make it easier to hide marijuana at school. Learn the different ways youth can use marijuana so you know what to look for.
  • Find the right moment. When student discussion, news stories, or local events center around marijuana, use that as a time to start the conversation. Discuss marijuana use in the context of his/her personal goals. When helping your student or athlete plan and prepare for the next game, the next test, or their future, talk about how their choices shape their opportunities and that underage marijuana use is not worth the risk.


The more you understand how marijuana can affect young people’s health, the more powerful your words will be.

A brain.
An open book.
A person who is thinking about marijuana.
A stopwatch.
A brain.

Marijuana can impact their brains, which are still developing

Teens’ brains are in a constant state of development and studies have shown that full brain development is not complete until age 25. Marijuana can have a negative effect on their brain’s development. For the best chance for youth to reach their full potential, help them to understand why they shouldn’t use marijuana underage.

An open book.

Weed can make it harder to learn

Using marijuana regularly underage can impact a youth’s ability to learn and remember things. Youth who use marijuana regularly have also been shown to have lower math and reading scores. Weed’s effects on the brain can last for weeks after quitting.

A person who is thinking about marijuana.

It’s addictive

If youth start using marijuana at a young age, it can become harder to stop. Youth who start using marijuana, alcohol or other drugs — even occasionally — may be more likely to continue using later in life. Remember that your words can help define their future.

A stopwatch.

Marijuana can affect physical and athletic performance

Marijuana smoke has many of the same chemicals as tobacco smoke, which is not healthy for lungs. That means it can make it harder for a young person to breathe and participate in physical activities. Marijuana can impact a teen’s ability to learn new skills, even weeks after he or she last used. It can also affect coordination, meaning it can affect youth’s ability to participate in everything from playing sports to playing music.

Vape products can contain nicotine, marijuana (THC or CBD), or other substances like flavoring agents or additional chemicals. While vaping products have grown in popularity, we have seen outbreaks of lung illnesses linked to vaping. The long-term health effects of vaping are unknown, and as information on the illness emerges, our best advice is to not vape at all. See here for Colorado-specific updates on the outbreak.


Underage marijuana use comes with consequences that can get in the way of a young person’s goals and plans—like attending college, getting a job, or joining an after school club. Understanding how marijuana can impact their futures helps you have a more impactful conversation.

Two friends with their arms around each other.
Youth don’t want to lose your trust.

It’s important to tell your kids how you feel about underage marijuana use and that there will be consequences if they do choose to use. Youth want to gain your trust because that can lead to more freedom like driving privileges and staying out with friends. But if they break your trust, that can mean losing those freedoms, which is something no young person wants.

A pair of running shoes.
It can get them kicked off the team, the club or other activities.

If youth are caught using marijuana, they could get in trouble with their school. That means they can be removed from sports teams and other activities, suspended, expelled or referred to drug counseling. Parents, coaches and teachers have a responsibility to talk to youth about underage marijuana use.

The scales of justice.
They can get in trouble with the law.

Under Colorado marijuana laws, If someone under the age of 21 gets caught with marijuana, they could get a Minor in Possession (MIP) charge. It’s important to let youth know that MIPs could also mean fines, driver’s license suspension, the loss of financial aid and misdemeanor or felony charges. If they are caught using at their school, they could be reported to local law enforcement and could be arrested. It’s important to note that youth who are legally prescribed medical marijuana are protected from legal consequences.

A bundle of cash.
It can mean less money for college.

A lot of teens work hard to get financial aid for college. Marijuana charges, including Minor in Possession (MIP) charges, can take away what they have worked so hard for in an instant. That’s because an MIP can result in the loss of federal financial aid for college, including Perkins Loans, Pell Grants, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, PLUS Loans and Work-Study Programs. Even if they aren’t thinking about college yet or have other plans in mind after high school, remind them that it’s never worth the chance.

A cash register.
It can cost them their job.

Regardless of age, many employers don’t allow their employees to use marijuana. This could mean losing a job and the freedoms that come along with making money. Make sure they understand the importance of building good references and not letting weed take away the things that can help.