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Weeding Out the Truth

Adolescents and Cannabis

Ammerman, Seth MD, FAAP, FSAHM, DABAM; Tau, Gregory MD, PhD, FASAM

doi: 10.1097/ADM.0000000000000199

The use of cannabis for both legal (similar to alcohol) and medical purposes is becoming more common. Although cannabis remains an illegal Schedule 1 drug federally, as of November 2015, 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized “medical” cannabis, and 4 states and the District of Columbia have legalized the use of cannabis for adults aged 21 years and older. It is very likely that more and more states will sooner rather than later allow cannabis for both medical and legal purposes. This review article will focus on a variety of issues relevant to the current debate about cannabis, and will address the following:

  1. Definitions of cannabis/cannabinoids/related; cannabis delivery methods
  2. History of federal legality/illegality of cannabis in the United States
  3. Current status of cannabis in the US states: legal medical, decriminalization, legal
  4. Use of cannabis medically by adults and adolescents; medical cannabis legalization and impact on adolescent use of recreational cannabis
  5. Major medical organizations position statements on cannabis
  6. Epidemiology of cannabis use among adolescents
  7. Effects and side effects of legal cannabis use; DUI
  8. Cannabis use and the adolescent brain
  9. DSM-5 Criteria Cannabis Use Disorder and Withdrawal

Department of Pediatrics, Division of Adolescent Medicine, Stanford University, Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford (SA); and Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Columbia University Medical Center, New York State Psychiatric Institute (GT).

Send correspondence and reprint requests to Seth Ammerman, MD, Clinical Professor, Division of Adolescent Medicine, Stanford University, 770 Welch Road, Suite 100, Palo Alto, CA, 94304. E-mail:

Received 23 July, 2015

Accepted 5 January, 2016

© 2016 American Society of Addiction Medicine