Teen Cannabis Use Down After Legalization in Colorado

Despite the warnings by marijuana opponents that legalization would lead to a spike in teen use, the opposite has occurred in Colorado, according to a new study.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health surveyed 2,000 Colorado teens in 2015-16 and found 9.08 percent had used marijuana in the past month. That was down from 11.13 percent of those ages 12 to 17 surveyed in 2014-15. Read the survey results, which were released Dec. 12, here: https://nsduhweb.rti.org/respweb/homepage.cfm

“Colorado is effectively regulating marijuana for adult use. … The days of arresting thousands of adults in order to prevent teens from using marijuana are over,” said Brian Vicente, Denver attorney and co-author of Amendment 64, the measure approved by Colorado voters in 2012 to regulate and tax recreational marijuana.

A key element of Amendment 64 restricts sales of recreational marijuana to adults 21 and over, and authorities have found that stores are complying with the law. https://www.denverpost.com/2014/06/26/no-colorado-marijuana-stores-found-selling-to-minors-in-police-checks/

The new survey involved just 2,000 teens in Colorado, a small sample size. But the results show the lowest teen use since 2007-2008, which confirms what the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has found in its own post-legalization surveys. The biennial Healthy Kids Survey in 2015, which surveyed 17,000 teens, found that marijuana use has decreased slightly since 2013, with 21.2 percent reporting having used it in the past 30 days. That puts Colorado slightly below the national average of 21.7 percent. Read that survey here: https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/sites/default/files/PF_Youth_MJ-Infographic-Digital.pdf

“I think the data reflect the trends we were seeing in the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey,” Mark Bolton, marijuana adviser and senior deputy legal counsel to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, told The Denver Post. “I think we’re encouraged by the numbers.”

For all Coloradans over 18 years old, the NSDUH found that past-month marijuana use jumped from 9.72 percent in 2008-2009 to 16.62 percent in 2015-2016, a fact seized on by opponents of legalization, including Smart Colorado executive director Henny Lasley.

“Smart Colorado is encouraged by a decrease in past year marijuana use for Colorado kids ages 12-17. But that optimism is offset by an increase among those ages 18-25, with nearly half reporting past year use, the third-highest rate in the nation,” Lasley said.

“This is particularly of concern as today’s marijuana becomes increasingly potent, with THC rates far exceeding anything experienced in past decades.”

The next Healthy Kids Survey will be released in the spring of 2018. Meanwhile, Colorado has had a record-setting year for marijuana, with sales of medical and recreational weed topping $1 billion by August, generating $162 million in tax revenue for the state so far. Read more here: http://www.thecannabist.co/2017/10/11/colorado-marijuana-sales-august-2017-tax-data/89751/

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