While it is illegal in California for anyone under 21 years of age to smoke, consume, buy, or possess non-medicinal cannabis, a significant proportion of adolescents report using cannabis. In Los Angeles County, a 2017/2018 survey of 7th, 9th, and 11th graders found that 6%, 17%, and 31%, respectively, reported ever using marijuana, and daily/near-daily use was reported by 4% of 11th graders.1
It is essential for healthcare providers to advise parents/caregivers and youth of the detrimental effects of cannabis on the developing brain. Although there is one FDA-approved cannabis product (Epidiolex/oral cannabidiol solution) for two rare and severe forms of epilepsy in individuals aged two years of age and above,2 there are currently no other medical indications for cannabis in youth. Clinicians should be aware that some adolescents may acquire and use cannabis for medicinal purposes (e.g., for depression or anxiety) without a physician’s recommendation. In these circumstances, it is important that clinicians provide alternative evidence-based treatments for the conditions, when indicated.
Providers are encouraged to place cannabis fact sheets for parents and youth in exam and waiting rooms. (See “Resources for Patients and Parents/Mentors” below.)
The following information on the risks of cannabis use in youth is adapted from the California Cannabis Health Information Initiative “Cannabis Information for Health Care Providers” fact sheet.