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Marijuana impairs motor coordination and reaction time and is the second most prevalent drug (after alcohol) implicated in automobile accidents.

The influence of marijuana use on a community can be demonstrated through the examination of findings like those found in the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area’s third annual report. Since the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, there has been a 32 percent jump in marijuana-related traffic fatalities, significant increases in emergency room visits and hospitalizations and a 40 percent increase in school expulsions.

The report also found that, 19 percent of all drivers involved in a fatal traffic accident tested positive for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Among all DUI violations in Colorado, 14 percent were related to marijuana.

The legalization of marijuana is associated with many negative consequences, including increased crime. Following legalization in Colorado, recreational use increased from 18.7 percent to 27.3 percent among 18- to 25-year-olds. In Denver, police also reported a 75 percent increase in burglaries. Since the legalization of medical marijuana in California, the Los Angeles Police reported a 57 percent increase in assaults and a 52 percent increase in burglaries.

Marijuana use negatively affects the future of the community’s youth.

  • Heavy marijuana users report that use had a negative effect on their cognitive abilities, social life, career status and mental and physical health.
  • Those that begin using marijuana by age 13 generally do not attend college and report lower levels of income and less education attained by the age of 28, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
  • Youth that use marijuana before age 14 are five times more likely to abuse other drugs in adulthood.

Marijuana use affects brain development and results in learning deficits.

  • Marijuana negatively impacts memory, learning, attention span and intelligence, long after intoxication.
  • Adolescents with a “D” average in school were more than four times as likely to have used marijuana in the past year when compared with students with an “A” average.
  • A loss of up to eight IQ points is associated with heavy marijuana use by an individual and persisted well into adulthood.

Marijuana use becomes a crutch for handling stress and other emotional issues. When a teen uses marijuana to cope with stress while the brain is still developing, they may fail to develop the skills that help adults deal with stress in a healthy way. It can take the place of activities like exercise, meeting a friend for coffee or engaging in a hobby that help an individual naturally combat stress and negative emotions. When a teen uses marijuana and it immediately takes away their feelings of stress or anxiety, they may enjoy the sensation so much that they are unable or unwilling to find healthy alternatives.

Can you recognize marijuana use? Besides the discovery of drug-related paraphernalia, such as rolling papers or small plastic bags, there are several clues you can look for to determine if your child or another loved one is using marijuana:

  • An abrupt change in friends
  • Declining grades and interest in academic achievement
  • Changes in sleep habits
  • A deterioration in family relationships
  • Lack of openness and honesty

Take time to know your teen and regularly spend time together. If something doesn’t feel right, trust your instincts.