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Life in a Marijuana-Legal State

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Moving to a state where marijuana is legal can be unnerving—especially if you have tweens and teens in the house. Here are seven things for parents to know about living in an MJ-legal state.

Who can use?

It’s legal in Colorado if you’re over 21, but still illegal federally—which means underage use can come with severe federal consequences. A DUI (driving under the influence) or an MIP (minor in possession) can impact your ability to receive financial aid through FAFSA and other federally funded grant and loan programs, says Jessica Neuwirth, a marijuana educator with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

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Legal doesn’t equal more common

Four out of five adolescents in Colorado say they don’t use marijuana, says Neuwirth. This is on par with the national average, so “while the legal environment is a little different, the lives of Colorado young people are not terribly different from other states.”

Communicate

Talk about what’s expected when (not if) your child encounters marijuana at a friend’s house or at a party. “Tell them, ‘If you feel unsafe, call me and I will come get you,’” Neuwirth says. “Your words have power,” she adds—youth who have an adult they can talk to are less likely to use marijuana, and it’s important for parents to set family rules, share your opinions, and listen to your child’s.

Schools can and do exact consequences

Many Colorado schools have policies that could see your child suspended or kicked off their sports team—a tactic that studies show works to discourage underage use, Neuwirth says.

Keep yours out of reach

For parents who use marijuana, there are fairly inexpensive lock boxes made specifically for storing marijuana, Neuwirth says—but any prescription drug lock box will do. “It’s not OK just to keep it out of sight,” she says, adding that the product should always be kept in retailers’ child-resistant packaging. If a child accidentally eats marijuana in any form, immediately contact a medical professional or call the poison control hotline (1-800-222-1222).

Edibles are marked as such

Show this to your child and memorize it yourself, too: This emblem is stamped on every package that comes through the retail or medical marijuana system, Neuwirth says—and for edibles it’s each individual product itself.

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We’re still studying its effects

We need more robust studies on long-term consequences of marijuana use, but we do know the brain is still developing until age 25, Neuwirth says. “Marijuana use before this age correlates to lower math and reading scores,” she says. “We also know it affects coordination, and that marijuana contains many of the same chemicals as tobacco smoke. It just isn’t healthy for lungs.”

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