Talking With Youth About Cannabis

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

Check out Partnership for Drug-Free Kids for more on how to talk with your teen about substance use.

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Advice for Parents and Caregivers

Creating supportive and safe environments for judgement-free conversations with the youth and young adults in your life can help them make healthy decisions, choose to delay use of substances, and feel more connected to positive and supportive adults.

Start the Conversation

It’s important to talk with youth and start the conversation early. Don’t try to squeeze it in on the way to school or when you only have a few minutes. Find time to have these conversations that works for both of you.

Keep the Conversation Going

Conversations about cannabis and other substance use, as well as mental health, should not be a one-time thing. Keep the door open for additional conversations as they have questions or get older.

Be Supportive

Try to listen without interruption. Demonstrate that you care for their well-being and want the best health outcomes. Remain supportive. Young people who have support from parents and other adults are less likely to use substances such as cannabis.


When you allow young people to be heard, they’re more likely to listen when you speak. Get their opinion. Don’t talk over or down to them. Allow them to ask questions.

Set Clear Expectations

Make your expectations about substance use clear. Ask that they don’t use cannabis or other substances until they are at least of age (21+). Create a safe and trusting environment that a young person feels comfortable talking to you. When youth feel like they have clear expectations and rules from their parents/caregivers, they are less likely to use.

Practice Conversations

If you’re starting the conversation, know what you plan to share. Practice with a friend or family member. Get familiar with what you plan to discuss. It’s okay not to know all the answers- you can always get new information and follow up.

Talk about What’s Important 

Underage cannabis use can impact different areas of a young person’s life. Talking about what’s important to them and how use can affect that can be helpful for them to make informed decisions. Some topics to consider are mental health, school performance/future goals, sports, and social environments.

Role-play How To Say “No”

Work with youth to find tools to deal with peer pressure. Many youth don’t realize saying no can be as simple as saying, “If I get caught, I won’t be able to do sports, theater, dance, etc.” Also, encourage youth to use you as an excuse to avoid cannabis use. For example, “My parents would ground me for the summer.”

Focus On The Positives

Encourage them to make choices that help them achieve their goals. Remind them that four out of five high schoolers, and 95 out of 100 middle school students don’t use cannabis.

Give Them Responsibility

Teach them to take charge of their own sleep, health, schoolwork and more. Having control over parts of their lives helps to teach youth how their decisions impact their health and future.

Understand the Impact of Cannabis on Driving

Cannabis impacts coordination and slows reaction times, which makes it unsafe to drive while using. If a young adult is using cannabis, make sure they understand never to drive, even if they think they’re okay. Many people think they’re a “better driver” when high.

Advice for Teachers, Coaches, Family Members & More

What you think matters to the young people in your life. As an adult who they trust, you can impact the choices of the youth you work with. What you say, and the example you set, makes a difference. These tips can help you get talking.

Remind Them That They’re Role Models

Let them know that younger students and siblings look up to them as examples.

Effect on School and Sports

Stress the fact that teens who use cannabis regularly may have trouble learning and memory issues. They may also have lower math and reading scores. Cannabis can also affect the way they play sports because it can affect coordination.

Resources for Adults Supporting Youth

Maine’s Student Intervention Reintegration Program (SIRP)

SIRP is an evidence-based program for youth who might be experimenting with substances, including cannabis. The goal of the program is to empower young people to make healthy decisions and reduce risk, without judgment or shame.

SIRP Referrals can be made by caregivers, school staff, law enforcement/corrections, or other caring adults in a young person’s life.

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Restorative School Policies

Best practice for substance use prevention is for schools to have a restorative policy for substance use violations, meaning they don’t suspend students for use but help to support them. Schools can find more information in this School Substance Use Policy Guide.

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