The adolescent brain is a period of dynamic development making it vulnerable to environmental factors such as drug exposure. Of the illicit drugs, cannabis is most used by teenagers since it is perceived by many to be of little harm. This perception has led to a growing number of states approving its legalization and increased accessibility. Most of the debates and ensuing policies regarding cannabis were done without consideration of its impact on one of the most vulnerable population, namely teens, or without consideration of scientific data. We provide an overview of the endocannabinoid system in relation to adolescent cannabis exposure and provide insights regarding factors such as genetics and behavioral traits that confer risk for subsequent addiction. While it is clear that more systematic scientific studies are needed to understand the long-term impact of adolescent cannabis exposure on brain and behavior, the current evidence suggests that it has a far-reaching influence on adult addictive behaviors particularly for certain subsets of vulnerable individuals. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled 'NIDA 40th Anniversary Issue'.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)416-424
Number of pages9
Issue numberPART B
StatePublished - 2014


  • Cannabinoid
  • Marijuana
  • Nucleus accumbens
  • Opioid neuropeptide
  • Prefrontal cortex


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