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Doctors Warn Parents That Marijuana Exposure Isn't Necessarily Safe For Kids & Here's Why

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As marijuana acceptance and legalization sweeps the nation, it's worth considering a news release from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) that urges caution when it comes to pot usage with a particular age group. Specifically, in the recent release, doctors warn that marijuana exposure isn't necessarily safe for kids and teenagers. And their reasoning is pretty simple.

According to the report, which is called "Counseling Parents and Teens About Marijuana Use in the Era of Legalization of Marijuana," and which will appear in the March issue of Pediatrics, marijuana may harm teenagers because their brains are still developing, and frequent use of the drug could change or impair that development. The report cites a study that showed potential brain abnormalities in teenagers who smoked up frequently, specifically in the areas controlling memory, planning, and executive functioning, although the report also noted that other studies on the subject have been inconclusive. Reported adverse effects of marijuana use in teenagers include issues with attention span and concentration, decreased lung health, and increased risk of depression.

In addition, the report emphasizes that addiction could be a real problem for teenagers who use marijuana often, given that the drug has gotten a lot stronger in recent years. Back in the 1980s, the concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (aka THC, the part of the plant that actually gets you high) was 4 percent, whereas in 2012, it was 12 percent.

So basically, even though the popular sentiment is moving more and more towards the idea that marijuana is relatively harmless, the AAP wants to emphasize that it should be treated similarly to alcohol, which also has more harmful effects on the adolescent brain than on a fully-grown adult one.

And while the report mostly warns about the dangers to teenagers, it also recommends that parents abstain in certain circumstances, namely when their children are around, and during pregnancy. Parents should watch out for the effects of secondhand smoke, as with cigarettes.

The report comes as more and more states move to decriminalize the drug. Medical marijuana is now legal in 29 states, and in states like Oregon and Colorado, the drug is legal for recreational use too. However, even as popular support is growing, and the pot industry is booming, the Trump administration is hinting that it may crack down on marijuana usage where federal enforcement is applicable.

So while in many ways the growing acceptance of marijuana use is a great thing, the AAP wants to remind parents that it is still a drug, and it's not completely harmless.