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How to Talk to Youth AboutMarijuana

Talking with youth about marijuana can be difficult, but it’s the best way to help them make good decisions. The more informed you are, the more helpful you can be to the youth in your life. 

Check out our CBS Denver town hall for an informed discussion on the importance of getting young people talking.

Watch the Town Hall Discussion

  • Advice for Parents

    Starting a conversation about retail marijuana with young adults can help prevent youth from using before they turn 21. These tips can help you get a successful conversation started.

  • Ages 13–16

    • Start the Conversation

      Of high school seniors who use marijuana, one in three used marijuana before they were 15. Start the conversation early, but don’t try to squeeze in the conversation on the way to school, or when you only have a few minutes. Decide when the time is right for both of you.

    • Listen

      Be a good listener. Get their opinion. Don’t talk over or down to them. When you allow them to be heard, they’re more likely to listen when you speak.

    • Establish Clear Rules

      Set your expectations and consequences for disobeying them. Make your rules clear and stick to them.

    • Role-play How to Say "No"

      Work with them to find tools to deal with peer pressure. This can be as simple as arming them with responses like: “No thanks. If I get in trouble, I won’t be able to do: sports, theater, etc.”

    • Focus on Positive Messages

      Positive messages are empowering. Being negative might overwhelm them or make them act out of fear or defiance. Talk with them about the ways marijuana could get in the way of their goals, and remind them that four out of five high schoolers don’t use marijuana.

    • Talk About Friends

      Know who their friends are, what they’re like and how they influence your teen.

    • Promote Self-confidence

      Teach them that they shouldn’t build their identity around marijuana. If they want to achieve their goals, being labeled a “pothead” could hurt their image to potential employers or even to someone they may want to date.

    • Keep Your Relationship Strong

      Let them know you’re on their side. You want to help them to make the best decision for themselves.

    • Your Influence Matters

      You might be surprised at how much influence your words, actions and opinions can have on your child’s choices.

  • Ages 17–20

    • Keep the Conversation Going

      Even if you’ve talked before, their issues and opinions change all the time. Plus, as children get older, they can feel more pressure from friends and classmates.

    • Stay Connected

      Be involved in their life. It helps to be able to focus on what they’re thinking and feeling.

    • Set Expectations

      Be clear about rules and expectations. Stick to the rules you set and be serious about consequences.

    • Promote Responsibility

      Teaching them how to be responsible with sleep, nutrition, schoolwork, and all aspects of life decreases the likelihood of marijuana causing problems for them in the future.

    • Encourage Balance

      Reinforce and celebrate when they do well in school, when they get a job, and when they succeed in their passions—the things that keep them balanced.

    • Stick to Your Word

      Listening to and considering their opinion is important, but remember to stand your ground on how you feel about marijuana.

    • Help Them Achieve Their Goals

      Help them to identify the passions, hobbies, dreams and freedoms they want for themselves, and to prioritize those interests over using marijuana. If they’re focused on goals that are meaningful to them, they’ll be less likely to let marijuana get in their way.

      Visit learn more.

    • Remind Them That Not Everyone Is Doing It

      It is easier for youth to say no to peer pressure if they do not think “everyone” is doing it. Let them know that four out of five high school students do not use marijuana, so they’re not alone by saying “no.”

  • Advice for Teachers, Coaches, Family Members & More

    Your influence matters. As an adult who youth trust, you are highly influential in the lives of the youth you work with. What you say, and the example you set, makes a difference. These tips can help you get a successful conversation started.

    • Remind Them That They're Role Models, Too

      Communicate to students that they are role models for younger students, athletes and siblings.

    • Real-world Consequences

      Stress the real-world consequences. Teens that break school or school activity rules may be referred to drug counseling, suspended, expelled, kicked off of a team, or face prosecution.

    • Negative Effects on Performance

      Stress how using marijuana can impact their performance at school or activities. For example, teens who use marijuana regularly may have difficulty learning, memory issues and lower math and reading scores. And smoking marijuana can also have a negative impact on athletic performance.

    • Be Aware of Methods of Consumption

      Because of vaporizers, edibles and drinks, it is easier than ever to conceal and consume marijuana at school or during school activities. Familiarize yourself with the different ways youth can use marijuana so you know what to look out for. Start by visiting our Methods of Consumption page.

  • Slang Terms for Marijuana

    Know what you might be overhearing. Learn some common terms for marijuana on our Marijuana Slang page.


    Download Youth Prevention materials on our Resources page.

    For more information about talking with youth, visit