Seth Ammerman
Adolescent Medicine: State of the Art Reviews 2014, 25 (1): 70-88
Marijuana use in pediatric populations remains an ongoing concern, and marijuana use by adolescents had known medical, psychological, and cognitive side effects. Marijuana alters brain development and has detrimental effects on brain structure and function in ways that are incompletely understood at this point in time. Furthermore, marijuana smoke contains tar and other harmful chemicals, so marijuana cannot be recommended by physicians. At this time, no studies suggest a benefit of marijuana use by children and adolescents. In the context of limited but clear evidence showing harm or potential harm from marijuana use by adolescents, any recommendations for medical marijuana use by adolescents are based on research studies with adults and on anecdotal evidence. Criminal prosecution for marijuana possession adversely affects hundreds of thousands of youth yearly in the United States, particularly minority youth. Current evidence does not support a focus on punishment for youth who use marijuana. Rather, drug education and treatment programs should be encouraged to better help youth who are experimenting with or are dependent on marijuana. Decriminalization of recreational use of marijuana by adults has not led to an increase in youth use rates of recreational marijuana. Thus, decriminalization may be a reasonable alternative to outright criminalization, as long as it is coupled with drug education and treatment programs. The effect of outright legalization of adult recreational use of marijuana on youth use is unknown.


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