No Increase in Teen Marijuana Use in Colorado Post-Legalization, Federal Government Reports

A new federal report reveals that teen marijuana use in Colorado still has not increased since adult use marijuana was legalized in 2012.

New federal data out of Colorado shows that teen marijuana use has not increased since recreational marijuana was legalized. In fact, it’s actually dropped.

According to the recently-published U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), 19.6 percent of Colorado students are currently using marijuana, compared to 19.8 percent nationwide.

Statewide, the rate of youth marijuana use has continued to decline since 2011, the year before Colorado voters legalized adult use marijuana by approving Amendment 64. In 2015, 21.2 percent of Colorado teens were currently using marijuana. In 2011, 22 percent were.

The percentage of high school students who have used marijuana in the past 30 days also fell, dropping 11 percent between the years 2011 and 2017, and remaining below the national average. Teens who have reported ever having tried marijuana also fell 11 percent during this period.

Marijuana Policy Project spokesperson Mason Tvert, who co-directed the campaign in support of Amendment 64, responded to the study’s findings in a statement.

“After five years of marijuana being legal for adults in Colorado, government surveys continue to find no increase in usage rates among high school students,” said Tvert. “This is very welcome news for Colorado, and it should be particularly welcome news for those who opposed the state’s legalization for fear it would lead to an explosion in teen use. Hopefully it will allay opponents’ concerns in other states where voters or lawmakers are considering proposals to legalize and regulate marijuana for adult use.”

“Colorado is proof that you can prevent teen marijuana use without arresting thousands of responsible adult marijuana consumers every year. Rather than debating whether marijuana should be legal for adults, let’s focus on how we can regulate it and control it to make it less available to teens.”

adolescents marijuana use

Debunking the Myth Around Cannabis Legalization and Teen Use

One of the most common arguments against legalizing marijuana is that it will encourage more teen use. Time and again, reports have shown that not to be the case.

The CDC data is consistent with several other studies finding that neither the enactment of medical marijuana legalization nor adult use marijuana legalization is associated with an increase in adolescent marijuana use.

Last year, a study investigating teen marijuana use in Washington, which legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, showed that rates of use among adolescents have remained virtually flat.

Not only does legalization not increase teen marijuana use, but also the loosening of cannabis laws doesn’t make it any easier for teens to access marijuana. Nor does it influence their attitudes toward marijuana.

Marijuana is legal in some capacity in three-fifths of U.S. states, plus Washington, D.C. Nine states have legalized recreational marijuana. And yet, teen cannabis use in the U.S. is at a 22-year low.

Legalization is likely to continue to expand this year, as voters in Michigan, Utah, and Missouri will be presented with marijuana ballot initiatives in November.

Those concerned with the impact of cannabis laws on teens can rest easy. As marijuana legalization has expanded throughout the U.S., cannabis use among teens has only fallen.

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