How to Talk to Your Kids About Colorado Marijuana Legalization 

Colorado marijuana legalization

In November 2012, Colorado voters passed Amendment 64. This allows adults 21 and over to legally have and use marijuana. It also allows the state to control the production and sale of marijuana. Many teens may ask about what Colorado marijuana legalization means. If you are a parent or other caring adult, it is important to know what the new law says. This will allow you to answer any questions your child has. Keep in mind that just because your childʼs not asking you a lot of questions, that doesnʼt means he or she doesnʼt have them. Take the chance to bring this up at dinner, in the car, or any time you can have a sincere conversation with your teen. Here’s some information about marijuana and the new law to help you start the conversation.


First, hereʼs what Amendment 64 is about:

  • It allows people 21 years of age and older to have up to one ounce of marijuana and use it in private in Colorado.
  • It allows people 21 years of age and older to grow up to six marijuana plants in private in Colorado.
  • It calls on Colorado to make processes and rules for growing and selling marijuana.

Hereʼs what it doesnʼt do:

  • It doesnʼt allow for anyone under the age of 21 to have or use marijuana.
  • It doesnʼt allow people to drive while intoxicated by marijuana.
  • It doesnʼt change federal law. Marijuana is still an illegal drug at the federal level.


Common Questions and Answers:

When your child asks,
Why is it legal now when itʼs been illegal all this time?
You can answer,
“Voters in Colorado felt that it should be legal for adults 21 and older. Marijuana will be used for recreational use just like how some adults use alcohol. It doesnʼt mean itʼs safe for you to use, especially as you start driving.
As a young person, your brain is not done developing. Substances like marijuana and alcohol have a really negative affect on it. Marijuana affects your learning, memory, coordination and how you make decisions.”


When your child asks,
Since itʼs legal for adults, though, wonʼt I get in less trouble if I get caught?
You can answer, “Youʼll still get in trouble. Not only will you get in trouble with the law but marijuana is still not legal under federal law. If you get in trouble, you may not be able to get student loans or scholarships for college if you use the drug.”


When your child asks,
But if itʼs legal, it must not be very bad, right?
You can answer,
“Thatʼs not necessarily the case. There are other legal drugs that are really harmful to your health, and thatʼs what Iʼm most worried about. Alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana are legal for Colorado adults to use. This doesnʼt mean theyʼre always safe. And theyʼre definitely not safe or healthy for youth to use. For someone your age, using marijuana is going to affect your learning and your memory. It is going to affect your coordination and how you make decisions. You and your brain function best when youʼre in control, not when a drug is in control.”


When your child asks,
But itʼs not like marijuana kills people like alcohol does, so itʼs not as bad as using alcohol, right?
You can answer,
“People can die a lot of different ways from drug use. With alcohol, itʼs true that some people will die from alcohol poisoning. Those dangers are definitely reasons I donʼt want you using alcohol either. Let’s think about tobacco. Tobacco is really unhealthy and kills hundreds of thousands Americans a year. But nobody really dies from overdoses with tobacco the same way they would with alcohol. Just because we donʼt see people immediately dying from marijuana use doesnʼt mean itʼs healthy or safe. Drugs affect how the brain works. Using marijuana doesn’t allow you to make good decisions. It can also affect your concentration in school and doing the things you love doing like sports or music. What I really want you to understand is that all of these drugs affect you differently. None of them are healthy or safe for you to use. “

When Your Child Asks If You’ve Used Marijuana
Some parents are uncomfortable talking with their teens about drug use. They’re afraid of getting asked by their children if they used drugs when they were younger. What do you say if you get asked this question? We encourage parents to be honest with their children, but also not share more than you need to. If you did use marijuana when you were younger, you can speak from experience why you wouldn’t want them to use. Make sure the conversation doesn’t turn to your past but stays centered on your child’s present and future. This should be a two-way conversation. The focus should be on why you care about your child, what you want for your child’s future, and how you think using marijuana and other drugs will stand in their way. It’s also important to talk to your child that if they do feel tempted to use marijuana that they talk to you. Having an open conversation with your child is an important way to prevent marijuana use. Also, make sure your child knows they can call you anytime they find themselves in an unsafe situation.

Still have questions? There are plenty of resources to help guide you during what could be a difficult conversation for you and your child. If you have more questions about marijuana and its effects, visit the National Institute on Drug Abuse at to learn more. Also consider if talking with another parent would help. If so, and youʼre not sure of who to turn to, call the Partnership at Drugfree.orgʼs toll free Parent Helpline at 1.885.DRUGFREE. Parent specialists are available to talk with you 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday – Friday. If you think your child may be using drugs and need help, turn to Arapahoe House, Coloradoʼs leading nonprofit provider of quality, affordable drug and alcohol treatment by calling 303.657.3700 or e mail [email protected] Trained counselors are available Mon Sat, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. to help talk with you about options for your child and connect you with local treatment providers.