Published 4/13/2022
New Pittsburgh Courier

It’s important to note that while cannabis can have positive effects medicinally for large portions of the population, it can negatively impact youth who use and abuse it. We spoke with Carlos T. Carter, President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh about his thoughts on cannabis use and young people.

What are your thoughts on the rising use of cannabis?  

I know there are a lot of positive medicinal effects that can help people manage pain, but it’s alarming that cannabis use impacts youth in such negative ways.  It concerns me that it impacts their brain development and that it makes mental health challenges worse. When users seek drugs to self-medicate, they are not addressing their under-lying problems and they tend to get worse. It’s a vicious cycle.

I’m concerned that young people don’t realize the dangers of fentanyl and other substances some marijuana is laced with, that could be putting their lives in jeopardy. Quite literally, they could die from taking that hit. It’s not worth it.

It also concerns me that youth don’t understand that marijuana is still illegal in Pennsylvania.

How do you think cannabis use and the pandemic have intersected in our Black communities? 

We all know the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on Black and other marginalized communities. Stress and the overwhelming burden of the pandemic on families drives people to seek out marijuana to deal with anxiety. They feel they need it to cope. People are stressed out. Increased poverty, increased isolation has all led to people seeking ways to self-medicate.

Whether warranted or not, Black youth are already at a higher risk of police encounters. Participating in cannabis use only adds additional targets to them and puts them at an increased risk of being convicted and incarcerated.

What are some questions you have for future research on cannabis use and youth?

What is driving youth to use? Is it ease of use, influencers? Are they feeling pressured?

First and foremost, we need to truly understand why our youth are using cannabis. Then we can work with them to develop healthier alternatives.

Important note: According to, possession of small amounts of marijuana is decriminalized in certain cities throughout the state of Pennsylvania, but recreational use remains illegal. Residents with qualifying conditions must obtain a medical cannabis ID card to purchase and use medical marijuana. The possession limit for patients is a 30-day supply. Home cultivation for any purpose is a felony.