Being a teenager unusually involves making some mistakes. For many young people, experiential learning is the best way for them to better understand the world and their place within it. Unfortunately, some kinds of mistakes can have longer-lasting results that others. Getting a traffic ticket or forgetting to study for a test can cause minor setbacks that result in little, if any, permanent damage. Getting caught with so much as a joint in their pocket, however, could completely alter the future for teenagers, especially if the criminal justice system ends up involved.

Although laws around the nation about marijuana are in a state of flux, Arizona still has a firm stance about the prohibition of marijuana. More importantly, no states have legalized the substance for recreational use by minors. Only adults can legally own and use recreational marijuana, even in states with full legalization in place. In Arizona, where marijuana possession is a felony, a teenager caught in possession of any amount could face life-altering consequences.

There’s more than jail to worry about

One of the first concerns parents often have when a teenagers faces criminal charges is incarceration. It is a serious risk, and one that can have a dramatic impact on the mental health and future of your child. However, in the rush to avoid any kind of jail time, parents all too often make hasty decisions. Just because a plea deal avoids jail time doesn’t mean it’s in the best interest of your child. Pleading guilty to any drug-related crime could haunt your child for life.

Arizona law makes possession of any amount a felony. The lowest penalty level possession extends up to two pounds and carries a maximum fine of $150,000 and between four months and two years in jail. The felony criminal record is also something to worry over, because it could cause issues for your teenager for life.

Criminal records can end college dreams

Most people understand that a felony on their criminal record could result in difficulty finding a job. It can also impact the search for housing, as many landlords will not rent to those with criminal records, let alone felony offenses. That alone could be devastating, but drug offenses carry an additional risk.

Students with any kind of drug conviction on their criminal records cannot receive any kind of federal funding for college. Although some may still qualify for school or organization-backed scholarships, many programs have limits regarding criminal backgrounds. Even if your child secures admission into a college, you family could face real struggles trying to finance an education with federally-backed student loans or grants.