Cannabis and the Adolescent Brain 

My Personal Interest

Have you heard about proposition 64, and it’s legalization of marijuana? Oh you have! But, have you have heard the effect it has on the young and innocent teen brain? Since cannabis has been legalized in California in 2016, it’s been pretty common to see while walking down the street, outside, or almost wherever you go. I got curious about the plant and wanted to explore it’s background and I learned that it is and has been popular in teens for decades now. I was already so intrigued into the story that I wanted to take it one step further. I wanted to see the future effects of a developing teen brain after consuming the cannabis on a regular basis and see if all these conspiracies of cannabis only having detrimental effects on teens are true.


Cannabis in teens started becoming a real problem about two generations ago in around the 50’s and 60’s. Teens during that time found out about a new “plant” which ended up being cannabis, and even though cannabis is not addicting, teens got hooked on it and have been for the past decades. Since then, the drug has found various forms (liquid, edible, vape, ext.) and has gotten more powerful as well which can be very detrimental to a teen’s growing brain. The teen use has only gone higher every year from the 50’s to now. Especially in the bay area where there have been plenty of marijuana, LSD, and phsycadellic rallies and marches going on since the 50’s. One of the biggest problems concerning cannabis and the negative alterations it has to the teen brain is that since cannabis has gotten much stronger and has found various forms it is unpredictable to see the effects it’s going to have to the teen brain since the weed that kids are smoking now is not the same type of weed that kids were smoking three decades ago. Cannabis dates back to 2727 B.C in the Chinese Empire, yet only started becoming popular in teens around the 50’s. Even though cannabis can be detrimental to a teen brain it’s effects can be extremely contradictory for teens with some sort of disability, or mental illness. Cannabis does not have negative effects for every teen out there today, but it does for a vast majority of them. There are only a couple of kids that can come to class under the influence and ace a test and those kids are very rare.

Problem Today

Now, 77 percent of American teens think that it is safe to consume cannabis without any harm. Almost one in every four teens have tried cannabis in the Bay Area. The average human brain stops developing in their mid 20’s. Teens who use cannabis alter the brain’s growth process which could lead to certain side effects including memory loss, urge to try new drugs since cannabis is not enough for them, and breathing problems. All of the alterations in the teen body happen in the endocannabinoid system which is what keeps people going and as a teen, that specific system is growing and the cannabis is only negatively altering it’s growth. Since California has over a thousand dispensaries available, and the Bay Area hosts a majority of them, the accessibly of cannabis for teens makes it that much easier. Even in Colorado, which is the second biggest cannabis state, there are only about 500 dispensaries there, which is only half of what California has. Yet at the same time there are kids (under the age of 18)  that do have mental difficulties and take cannabis as a medication to aid there disease. Since these kids are younger they would never smoke it, instead, take it in pills or food.

The amount and type of cannabis consumed by teens is a vital factor in the alteration of the teen brain as well. Since there are hundreds of strains and percentages of the cannabis, a teen that smokes every once in a while with not too strong cannabis will not have severe brain problems in comparison to a teen that smokes regularly mainly out of backwoods (tobacco which leads to many respiration problems) with very strong strains, who will most likely have many brain, breathing and mental problems down the road in his life. Many articles that we read today are broad when they talk about teen use of cannabis, since the amount and type of cannabis will completely change the average statistics that we read in our papers.

The Solution

Some of the best solutions is to spread awareness. The best way to do so, is to get doctors that specialize in teen brains and get them on TV, social media, newspapers and let them stress how detrimental cannabis can be to the teen brain. Let them explain to the teens what they are getting themselves into prior to consuming the plant. There are even people in the Bay Area like Ralph Cantor that go from school to school to educate parents and teens, even middle schoolers about the plant and make them aware of what it can to do the adolescent brain. People like Ralph can help schools locally, while the doctors and celebrities can be the ones that help globally. In the 90’s and early 2000’s there were ads for this, but people payed no attention to it since the talk about cannabis was not nearly as popular as it currently is. As well as celebrities, mainly those that support cannabis (Wiz Khalifa, Seth Rogen, ext.) that teens look up to and listen to, to tell them to stop and at least wait until they get older until they’re brain has fully developed and won’t have any permanent damages.


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Works Cited

Author, Newday. “Teens and Drug Use.” NewDay Counseling – Addiction Treatment, Addiction Treatment , 24 Aug. 2017,

DuPont, Robert L. “Home.” Prevent Teen Drug Use, Prevent Teen Drug Use, 23 June 2016,

Fernandez, Lisa. “Why Teens Shouldn’t Be Ingesting Cannabis Often.” Oakland Magazine, Oakland Magazine, 19 Mar. 2018,

Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, FCD Prevention Works. “Preventing Teen Marijuana Use.” Preventing Teen Marijuana Use | Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, 26 Oct. 2016,

Lupkin, Sydney. “77 Percent of American Teens Now Believe It’s Safe to Smoke Weed.” VICE News, VICE, 27 Jan. 2016,

Neighmond, Patti. “Marijuana May Hurt The Developing Teen Brain.” NPR, NPR, 3 Mar. 2014,

Reese, Phillip. “See Which California Areas Smoke the Most Weed.” Sacbee, The Sacramento Bee, 2 Aug. 2016,

Wallis, Claudia. “What Pot Really Does to the Teen Brain.” Scientific American, 1 Dec. 2017,

Weir, Kirsten. “Marijuana and the Developing Brain.” Monitor on Psychology, American Psychological Association, 15 Nov. 2015,

Weisberger, Mindy. “Teen Brain on Pot: New Study Examines First Exposures.” LiveScience, Purch, 15 Mar. 2017,

Share this project
  1. April 29, 2018 by Karen Bradley

    Reda, I am glad that you took on this topic of effects on the brain of marijuana, which is often dismissed by people your age. It was interesting to me as well that some of your sources were from Australia (NPIC)–led me to look them up! It’s always helpful to get an international perspective on a research topic. The map of teen marijuana use prevalence by U.S. state was powerful, especially in the context of the much higher THC levels in this generation of marijuana compared to that used by people in the 1970s. I’ve seen the effects on heavy users from my generation (I was a teenager in the late 1970s), the chief of which is to develop a habit of avoiding what is difficult –work that is difficult, challenging moments in relationships–and turn to substance use instead. The substance use takes one’s mind off the problem instead of through. When this coping mechanism continues into adulthood, IMHO, users don’t develop the ability to really solve “life’s most pressing issues,” as Martin Luther King Jr. said. That’s just a bummer.

  2. April 30, 2018 by Grace

    This was an interesting topic, thanks for sharing! I live in California so it is definitely relevant for me cause I see harmful marijuana use at my school all the time. I liked your presentation a lot, I think that the topic is a very important one to spread awareness cause as you said, many people think that weed is just a plant and that it is natural and can’t cause harm, when it obviously can. One thing I would fix is that the google form is restricted access, I think you can fix that in settings, however.

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