Myths & Facts

Jennifer Washabaugh
Cannabis remains the most-used illegal substance among youth. By their high school graduation, ~45% of US teens will have tried it. So, how do we effectively prevent this?

One easy way to help youth navigate this inevitable topic, we must empower them with the knowledge, resources, and confidence to make healthy decisions for themselves. This starts with providing a foundation for evaluating myths versus facts.

What are scare tactics?

Scare tactics - one type of 'prevention strategy' - emphasize the worst dangers of drug use in order to create fear and anxiety in the hopes that fear alone will prevent or stop risky behaviors. 

But research has repeatedly shown that scare tactics don't work in preventing substance mis-use. In fact, scare tactics have been linked to higher likelihoods of substance use compared to those with no drug awareness / education training.Instead, we must provide youth with the education & skills they need to make healthy choices. This can be done by:

  • Strengthening social-emotional learning (SEL) skills like self-control, emotional awareness, communication, problem-solving & peer relationships
  • Creating environments that support behavioral health & the ability to withstand challenges
  • Teaching accurate & up-to-date facts/research
  • Creating safe spaces where youth can express opinions, doubts, & concerns in front of their peers/facilitators
  • Using interactive approaches that include skill practice
  • Focusing on normative education that portrays true use rates & corrects misconceptions
  • Normalizing/celebrating healthy behaviors
These are approaches we use in The YESS Academy's e-Learning series on substance use awareness and education. In the Cannabis Awareness & Education SEL Curriculum, we start with the basics: What is Cannabis? How do people use it? What are health effects of using it? What is the purpose of medical marijuana? Check out some of our quick facts:

Evidence-based youth drug awareness & education is critical

YESS Academy is based in Colorado - the first state in the country to legalize medical and recreational Cannabis use. After years of research, we now know that the most effective adolescent Cannabis education depends on context, and programming should be designed based on the individual realities of a school.

Youth drug awareness and education is critical, now more than ever. The statistics don't lie: mis-use of substances is pervasive in our current world, and the statistics around youth drug use are alarming both at the national and state levels.

Check out the statistics on youth drug use for individuals ages of 12-17 years:
See References 1-4 for full details related to youth drug use statistics in the United States and Colorado.

What are some Cannabis myths versus facts?

What is Cannabis?
Marijuana refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant. The plant contains the mind-altering chemical THC and other similar compounds.

How do people use Cannabis?
Smoking, vaping, edibles, dabbing, capsules, tinctures, beverages, sprays, topical/oils. Check out our full blog post about commonly used slang for Cannabis.

Myth: Smoking Cannabis is less dangerous than smoking cigarettes.
Fact: Both Cannabis and cigarette smoke can be harmful to the body and lungs. More research is needed to fully understand the link between Cannabis and long-term effects like cancer.

Myth: Cannabis isn't addictive.
Fact: Cannabis-use CAN lead to addiction. People who begin using Cannabis in their teens are 4-7 times more likely to develop addiction compared to those who began smoking in adulthood.

What is medical marijuana?
Medical marijuana is a term for derivatives of the Cannabis sativa plant that are used to ease symptoms caused by certain medical conditions, such as severe epilepsy and cancer.

Looking for more information?
Download the YESS Academy's Cannabis Fact Sheet below:
Empty space, drag to resize

Take a demo of our Youth Cannabis Awareness & Education program

Ready to take the course?

Want other resources?

YESS Academy is the product of collaboration between YESS Institute, RadSchools, and Denver Afterschool Alliance. We are grateful to our many community supporters and participants who have helped make our resources streamlined, effective, and available to you in multiple modalities.

YESS Institute


Empty space, drag to resize
1. National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics. 2022.
2. Anne E. Casey Foundation. Kids Count Data Center.,6/419,420
3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHS) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), National Surveys on Drug Use and Health. National Surveys on Drug Use and Health: 2018-2019.
4. Colorado Substance Abuse Trend and Response Task Force. Annual Report. 2021.