Supporting Healthy Youth in the Age of Retail Cannabis

October is National Youth Substance Use Prevention Month, and October 1st also marked the opening of legal, adult-use retail cannabis in Vermont. As a prevention coalition, we are committed to supporting the overall health and well-being of our community by preventing and delaying first-time substance use and misuse among youth.

As cannabis becomes normalized through increased advertising, sales, and perceived use in our state, it’s critical that our communities understand the public health aspects of cannabis use so we can keep kids safe, healthy, and thriving.

The basics:

  • You must be 21 or older to buy, carry, or use cannabis. It is illegal to use cannabis in any public space, including a car.
  • Delaying early use is key to reducing the risks of developing a dependence or Cannabis Use Disorder. Waiting to try cannabis until at least age 21 or older helps to reduce the harmful effects of cannabis use on the developing brain.
  • Regular cannabis use has been linked to anxiety, depression and suicide, especially for teens with a family history of mental illness. The more cannabis used, the higher the risk.

To learn more about retail cannabis, visit the Cannabis Control Board’s website.

Did you know?

Perception of harm related to cannabis use is going down amongst Vermont youth. A recent local survey found:

  • 28% of high school and 18% of middle school students feel there is “no risk” to themselves if they use cannabis,
  • 12% of high school and 8% of middle school students report that their parents would not find it “not at all wrong” if their kids use cannabis products, and
  • 31% of high schoolers and 32% of middle schoolers report their friends find it “not at all wrong” and “a little bit wrong” to use cannabis.

Source: 2022 MAU/MAUMS Student Survey

Tips for parents and caring adults:

Parents and caring adults can positively influence youth behaviors and attitudes about cannabis by talking openly and frequently with young people about the risks and consequences associated with cannabis use, modeling healthy behavior in front of children, and acknowledging when youth make healthy choices.

As with all substances, keep cannabis out of reach and out of sight of children in a locked location. There are lots of storage options available!

Products including THC concentrates such as dabs and edibles can be mistaken for candy or other sweet treats, and can have up to 60% potency—as allowable by Vermont law—increasing the risk for cannabis-induced psychosis. Paraphernalia in bright colors and fun designs are appealing to youth and should be kept out of sight. If you choose to have cannabis in your home, do not store it near food or medicine.

Towns can support the prevention and reduction of cannabis misuse through municipal plans and regulations such as language in the town plan supporting smoke and vape-free parks and events, and ordinance language limiting cannabis outlet density. Remember: the purpose is not to restrict municipalities in fostering economic opportunities through establishments that produce, serve, distribute, or sell these products, but to provide and enhance substance use prevention and early intervention for Vermont youth, leading to reductions in substance misuse across all ages.


  • Let’s Talk Cannabis: Science-based information about cannabis, and how it affects our bodies, minds, and health.
  • ParentUp VT: Tips for parents and caregivers on talking with their kids about cannabis and other substances.
  • Northern New England Poison Center, (800) 222-1222: If a child or pet accidentally consumes cannabis, an adult consumes too much, or consumption has an undesirable effect, the poison center can help in these situations. Call 911 right away if the individual collapses, has a seizure, has trouble breathing, or cannot be awakened.
  • VT  Helplink: Statewide resource connecting Vermonters with substance use treatment and support services.

Sources: Vermont Department of Health; Vermont Cannabis Control Board

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