Cann We Chat?

Equipping Parents
to Talk with Their Kids
About Cannabis

10 Facts to Know About Cannabis

Most Don’t Use

78.5% of youth

in Missoula County DON'T use marijuana on a regular basis.
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5% THC potency

was the average for the cannabis flower in 2000, (the part that produces the “high”), but it’s not uncommon to see products today that are 80 - 90% THC.
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Memory Loss

Marijuana use affects attention span, learning, memory, and problem solving abilities, particularly for youth.

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1-in-6 people

who start using Marijuana before the age of 18 become addicted.
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Heavy Marijuana users are more likely to report thoughts of suicide than nonusers.

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20-30% higher odds

of a Motor Vehicle Crash while driving under the influence of Marijuana.
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Lower IQ

5.5-8 point decline

in IQ from childhood to midlife for Long-term marijuana users (typically by 5.5 points, though as much as 8). These IQ points may not be fully recovered over time.
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Increased risk

of developing schizophrenia and other psychoses is caused by Cannabis use; the higher the use, the greater the risk.
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Increased risk

for developing social anxiety disorder likely caused by Consistent marijuana use.
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Dropping Out

2x more likely to drop out

Students who start using cannabis early are 2x more likely to drop out of high school than those who don’t use cannabis.
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Conversation Tips

Get additional help with this Resource Guide!

If you’re concerned about your child’s substance use or mental health, it is difficult to know what to do or who to call for help. Here is a simple guide with community services in our area that may help.

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The 2022 Montana Prevention Needs Assessment for Missoula County shows that 78.5% of Missoula County students in grades 8, 10, and 12 report that they did NOT use marijuana in the past 30-days. However, this means that Missoula youth use is higher than the state’s data by 4.7%. For more information on this survey, see the link below.

Over the past few decades, the amount of THC in cannabis has steadily climbed. With the development of new concentrated products, like vapes, dab-pens, and edibles, these can be made with up to 99% THC, though Montana limits the potency of the cannabis flower to 35%.  This is concerning because there is a “dose-response relationship” between THC and health risks – the higher potency of THC in a product or the more frequently used a product is, the higher the likelihood of addiction and risk of harm.

Source: Changes in Cannabis Potency Over the Last 2 Decades (1995–2014): Analysis of Current Data in the United States

Youth are particularly at risk for this – recent longitudinal studies have indicated that youth who begin using marijuana at a young age are at a higher risk of these deficits because their brain is still developing. 

Source: Cannabis (Marijuana) DrugFacts (NIDA)

When cannabis is used before the brain is fully developed (by age 25), it puts youth at a higher risk of becoming addicted. Repeated use of substances before the brain is done growing can permanently impact some parts of the brain, such as the reward circuit, due to increased levels of dopamine (aka the “happy” hormone). The reward circuit is one of the areas most affected by drug use and chemical changes in the brain. Increased dopamine levels shifts the balance between the stress and reward circuits, reducing impulse control, which can make a person with a substance use disorder seek the drug compulsively. 

Source: Is marijuana addictive? (NIDA)

As suicide is the 10th most common cause of death in the United States, and Montana had the second-highest suicide rate in the country in 2022 (only behind Wyoming), many studies have been conducted to test whether there is an association between cannabis use and suicidality. These studies demonstrate evidence of a dose–response effect, with heavy cannabis use being associated with a higher risk of suicidal ideation and suicidal attempts. This is specifically problematic for males. Among men, any cannabis use was significantly associated with the incidence of suicidality, whereas studies showed women indicated suicidality with daily or heavy use of cannabis. 

Sources: The association between cannabis use and suicidality among men and women: A population-based longitudinal study
A literature review and meta-analyses of cannabis use and suicidality

Research studies have shown negative effects of marijuana on drivers, including an increase in lane weaving, slower reaction time, impaired depth perception, decreased coordination, and altered attention to the road.An analysis of these studies by Rogebers & Elvis (2016) found that the presence of THC metabolite in blood, saliva, or urine, was associated with 20 to 30 percent higher odds of a motor vehicle crash. Driving under the influence of cannabis is illegal in Montana – known as a DUIC.

Source: Drugged Driving DrugFacts (NIDA)

The effects of cannabis intoxication on motor vehicle collision revisited and revised

Risk of road accident associated with the use of drugs: A systematic review and meta-analysis of evidence from epidemiological studies.

Acute cannabis consumption and motor vehicle collision risk: Systematic review of observational studies and metaanalysis

Marijuana use and motor vehicle crashes. Epidemiologic Reviews

Studies have shown that when youth start using marijuana at an early age, the impact to their brain function lasts into adulthood. The brain isn’t done developing until around age 25, so youth are more susceptible to severe and long-lasting consequences due to the changes cannabis can cause in brain structure. This includes negative impacts on attention span, learning, memory, and problem solving abilities.

Source: Meier et al 2022

Early-Onset, Regular Cannabis Use Is Linked to IQ Decline

Studies have shown that cannabis use can worsen the symptoms of already diagnosed psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and have demonstrated an association with the development of other psychoses as well. There is an increased risk of any psychotic outcome in individuals who have ever used cannabis. This risk increases in people who use cannabis more frequently or in higher concentrations. People experiencing psychosis may suffer from delusions, hallucinations, disordered thinking, and other symptoms that make it difficult to function in daily life.

Source: Meta-analysis of the association between the level of cannabis use and risk of psychosis

Cannabis use and risk of psychotic or affective mental health outcomes: A systematic review

Alcohol confounds relationship between cannabis misuse and psychosis conversion in a high-risk sample

Cannabis use has been shown to interfere with learning by impairing memory, attention, or other cognitive functioning – all of which can translate into poor schooling outcomes. Underage cannabis use also shares many risk factors with other risky health behaviors. Risk factors include antisocial behaviors (such as rebelliousness), family conflict, depressive symptoms, low neighborhood attachment, etc. 

Source: Marijuana use and high school dropout: the influence of unobservables

Illicit drug use and educational attainment

The relationship between marijuana initiation and dropping out of high school

NIH Marijuana Use Info (PDF)



Prepare for these conversations by talking with other influential adults in your child’s life. Decide on your expectations and your family rules. Consider how you are going to answer questions like – did you use marijuana when you were a kid?


Listen to the Podcasts “Mixed Messages about Marijuana” and “Establishing Rules About Marijuana” before talking to your child.

Additional Resources: Establishing Rules About Marijuana for Your 13-Year-Old 

Mixed Messages About Marijuana for Your 15-Year-Old

Start Early


Starting at age 8, talking often and consistently about your clear rules and expectations about why no substance use until after 21 is critical.


If you’re listening to the radio and you hear an ad for a dispensary, you can ask your child if they know how using cannabis affects the body. Keep the info simple: Cannabis affects how your mind works, and can make it hard for you to remember or learn new things.

Additional Resources:
Talking to Your Child About Drugs (for Parents) – Nemours KidsHealth

Be Repetitive


Lots of LITTLE talks are more effective than one BIG Talk.

Youth are more likely to remember those conversations when they are in a stressful situation if they heard the information repeatedly.


Check in with your child during their school’s unit on substances in health class, Red Ribbon Week, school events like Prom, before holidays and vacations, or even during random times where you are together. Use the Wellness Awareness Calendar to initiate topics during specific times of the year.

Additional Resource

Wellness Awareness Calendar

> Download PDF

Get Input


Get input from your teen before beginning the conversation. Start by mentioning something you know they may have seen in a movie or TV show, and ask them about it to gauge their opinion. This casual introduction will help them to open up and engage.


“What did you think about that episode in Euphoria? Do you know anyone who has done something like that?”

Additional Resource:
When And How To Talk To Your Child About Drugs And Alcohol – Addiction Center

Be Clear


Be clear about your own opinions on youth use. Remember that they may have questions about whether you have used drugs before – Be honest with them, but make it clear that now you know why something was the healthy/unhealthy choice.


“Yes, I’ve used that substance before. Now that I know it was unhealthy for me I would choose differently. If you were in a similar situation I hope that you would say ‘no,’ and call me if you need to leave.”

Additional Resource

REAL Refusal Skills

Be Empethetic


Be empathetic if they disagree with you, and try not to cast blame or shame them. Express the reason why you feel this way and always bring it back to your care for their health and wellbeing.


“Your friend’s family may allow that, but our family has different rules. I know that marijuana use before your brain is done developing can be really damaging, and I want you to have a healthy life.”

Additional Resource

Terms to Avoid

Be Credible


Be credible when talking about drugs, use resources like the CDC or SAMHSA to educate yourself and your child. Show your child how to find and identify  these credible resources on their own so that they can learn as well.


When you are looking for information, make sure it is from a credible source. Consider, “Who is publishing this, and what do they have to gain from saying ____ about marijuana?” “Is the research peer-reviewed or from a scientific journal?”

Additional Resource: DEA:

Take Action


Take action by establishing rules for your family and outlining consequences. Show that you are paying attention to their choices in life.


“I know you have the homecoming football game tonight and will be hanging out with your friends after. I’ll let you take the car tonight with the understanding that you will not use drugs or drink, and will call/text me to let me know if you will be home late or need me.”

Additional Resource

Set Clear Rules

Find Solutions


Find solutions by offering to continue the conversation with your child(ren), or offering help/practice in how to say no.


“If you’re ever feeling overwhelmed or pressured and need to leave a party, know that you can call/text me and I will come get you. Let’s set a codeword just in case.”

Additional Resource

Set a Codeword

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