An Open Letter to Parents of Teens about Marijuana

Dear Parents,

As the parent of two teens – 16 and 19 – I know what it’s like to have everything you say met with a sigh, an eye roll or even a dramatic “you don’t understand me” as they flounce out of the room. Chores? Forget about ‘em. Homework? Hopefully, but on their schedule, not yours.

Problem is, while they’re trying to figure out who they are and what kind of young adult they’re going to become, they’re still more clueless and naive than they realize. It’s our job as parents to help out, to guide them, to encourage them to make smart decisions that keep them out of trouble, and help them grow into the healthy young adults we hope they’ll become.

good to know colorado - father talking to son about marijuanaAnd that means that you need to have some pretty serious conversations with them about very adult topics, even if they don’t want to participate. One of the most important is a conversation about retail marijuana usage.

Fortunately, I’ve learned that even when they’re staring out the window or thumbing through a magazine, they are listening. As long as you can both turn off your devices and pull out the earbuds, they’ll hear you. Climb into the car or sit down on the couch, turn off the TV and share the facts about teens and retail marijuana.

Here’s what your teen needs to know:

• Whatever their peers say about “doing it all the time”, in fact only 1 in 5 Colorado high school kids have used marijuana in the last 30 days.

• Smoking marijuana affects coordination, lung capacity, muscular performance and can make it harder to breath, all big problems for teen athletes.

• Marijuana can cause learning difficulties, memory issues and lower math and reading scores.

• Brain development doesn’t finish until about 25 years of age. Smoking weed limits that development, something that’ll stick with you for life.

• It’s illegal if you’re under 21. This can have some serious consequences: A minor in possession can mean a driver’s license suspension and misdemeanor or felony charges on their record, charges that can cause them to be unable to get any federal college aid money including Pell Grants, PLUS loans and even participate in work-study programs.

Lots to talk about with your teen, but here’s another tip from a parent who’s been there, done that: keep it positive and remember to take time to listen to their perspective, even if it takes a while for them to start talking.

good to know colorado - grandpa talking to son about marijuana

One more thing, and this one’s easy: clearly and unequivocally state that you believe underage use of weed is wrong. By simply doing that, your children are four times less likely to light up.

These are hard conversations to have, I understand. You might even be a recreational marijuana user yourself. But you’re of legal age and the State of Colorado says that’s not illegal. You also know it can impair and affect you so you’re smart about not driving high.

The issue is your teens, and your children are too important for you to let them make their own – flawed – decisions on something as important and dangerous as drug usage.

So take a deep breath, get your facts straight, and sit down with your teen today to talk about retail marijuana use. Even if they do The Big Sigh and walk away when you’re done, they’ll have heard you and it’ll give them something to think about.

Good luck.


Dave Taylor
Single Dad
Boulder, CO

ps: This post was sponsored by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment as part of its Good to Know campaign. For more tips on how to talk to youth about not using retail marijuana before age 21, visit

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