Marijuana Use in Colorado Increases Only in Those Over 18


According to a much anticipated study, adults in Colorado are using more marijuana, but their children are not.

A new study released this week provides a first look at the impacts of Colorado’s legal cannabis industry.

Following the passage of Amendment 64, the Colorado General Assembly passed Senate Bill 13-283, mandating that the Division of Criminal Justice conduct a study of the impacts of Amendment 64.

The comprehensive, 143-page study was compiled by the Colorado Department of Public Safety and tracks legal marijuana use in the state during the first two years of legalization. Although designed to explore the impacts legalization has had on law enforcement in Colorado, the study covers everything from hospital visits to arrests to tax collection in the state’s first few years of legalization.

The biggest takeaway from the study is that, since being legalized for recreational use in 2012, legal cannabis use is trending up in Colorado.  

However, because of Colorado’s haphazard reporting of cannabis use in the past, Jack Reed, the statistical analyst who wrote the report, thinks it best serves as a starting baseline for future studies.

“It is too early to draw any conclusions about the potential effects of marijuana legalization or commercialization on public safety, public health, or youth outcomes,” Reed writes, “and this may always be difficult due to the lack of historical data.”

What the report does show is a large and growing demand for a legal marijuana market in Colorado. Use of marijuana among adults of legal age has increased in the first two years since legalization. The biggest jump in cannabis use was among adults 26 years and older. This age group reported a rise in monthly use from 7.6% in 2012 to 12.4% in 2014.

Adults ages 18-25 were also found to be trending up by 5%. Although they were not the fastest growing age group in the study, overall nearly a third of those aged 18-25 reported using cannabis in the past month.

While the study revealed promising news for a burgeoning cannabis industry in the U.S., the most important statistic in the study revealed no increase in youth cannabis consumption. This number is pulled from 40,000 anonymous surveys given to Colorado’s middle and high school aged children.  The survey’s results showed no significant rise in use since 2012. In fact, among high school students, reported monthly use went down from about 23 percent in 2005 to about 20 percent in 2014.

Despite an increase in cannabis use, Colorado has seen a decline in arrests and citations for marijuana related crime, and there has been no significant change in the number of people arrested for driving stoned. As a share of all arrests in Colorado, marijuana was responsible for 6% of all arrests in 2012 and just 3% in 2014, proving that responsible regulation of cannabis is not the detriment to society the naysayers predicted it would be.

Currently four states (Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska) and the District of Columbia have legalized adult use marijuana, and several more have ballot initiatives prepared for November. ]]>