Teen mental health expert on marijuana legalization

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(ABC 6 News) – Under the newly legalized adult-use cannabis law it is illegal for anyone under 21 to use marijuana, but experts say that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look out for younger generations.

A 2017 CDC study found that in some states where marijuana is legal, teen use of the drug approximately doubled.

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz (DFL) said at the bill signing Tuesday, legalization will help the state regulate problems already happening in Minnesota – like teen use.

“Turning your back and pretending a problem doesn’t exist – and for those who bring up ‘what about this what about that,’ all those things are happening right now. What this is meant to do is reduce those facts and reduce those chances,” Walz said.

“I think once it’s legal there’s going to be an increase in access and increase in acceptability. We have to be prepared for teens to be using more than they are,” said Dr. Sunil Mehta, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at PrairieCare in Rochester.

He says cannabis use, whether that’s THC or CBD, can have negative impacts on developing brains. Studies have shown marijuana can impact memory, cause a lack of motivation, and reduce reaction time in some children.

Mehta also says it’s important to remember while it can be used safely in moderation by adults, children need to avoid exposure altogether.
“Even when it’s not huge amounts every single day, it has a lasting impact on the child’s development.”

Mehta advises parents who plan on keeping and using marijuana in their homes to have an open conversation with children about risks.

“Parents are going to have to have conversations about marijuana the same way we do about alcohol.”

According to Mehta, marijuana is known to interact negatively with other medications, like those treating ADHD.