The kids are alright, according to a survey conducted by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDHPE). According to the Healthy Kids of Colorado Survey, teen marijuana use decreased by 35% in just one year. There was also a 50% reduction in teens driving while under the influence of cannabis, and a 22% drop in access to marijuana, according to teenagers surveyed.
This is excellent news for cannabis advocates who have argued that legalization will actually protect children, as it’s incredibly supportive of this belief. However, the truth behind the statistics may be more than meets the eye.
Anti-Cannabis Talking Points Lose Legitimacy According To New Data
Colorado was the second state to legalize recreational marijuana (after Washington State) in 2012. Data regarding underage consumption has been a focal point in policy and legislation for both advocates and prohibitionists. Advocates claim that data from surveys going back to 2013 show a general pattern regarding marijuana usage, illustrating how restricting access for adults reduces the probability of youth cannabis use.
In the latest report, CDPHE discovered that slightly over 13% of the students polled admitted to using marijuana during the previous 30 days. When the department’s biennial poll first began in 2013, those percentages were close to 20%, showing a dramatic decrease over the past few years.
“These data are consistent with other surveys showing that marijuana regulation policies can be implemented in a manner that provides access for adults while simultaneously limiting youth access and misuse,” said National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) Deputy Director Paul Armentano. “These findings ought to reassure lawmakers and others that cannabis access for adults can be regulated in ways that do not inadvertently impact young people’s habits.”
The study also collected information on youths’ perceptions of the risks associated with regular marijuana usage. More than 60% of respondents to the most recent biennial survey described the risk of harm from frequent cannabis use as being “moderate” or “great.” Only 54% of the population did so in 2013.
Analyzing The Data
Numbers, while useful, can often be misleading or present incomplete pictures. The reduction in teen cannabis use correlates with multiple factors, and if you ever took a statistics class, you’ll remember that correlation does not equal causation.
Experts attribute the reduction in cannabis usage to several factors, although it’s important to note that there is a consistent downward trend in teen marijuana use, and there has been since legalization. While the COVD-19 pandemic made socialization (and, by extension, illicit cannabis use) more difficult for teens, it’s not so difficult that it could explain such a consistent and dramatic reduction.
The impending recession is also another contributing factor to teen marijuana use reduction. People (including kids) just don’t have the disposable income they did a few years ago, so it’s possible that economic considerations have contributed to the reduction in cannabis use.
The state’s voter-approved legalization initiative was initially opposed by Colorado’s former governor, who is presently serving in the U.S. Senate, in large part because he was concerned that the change in policy might encourage youth use.
He has since become a vocal supporter of reform, however, after seeing that this didn’t seem to be the case and that, in fact, legalization appeared to attract older populations to try cannabis.
“I think we created a pretty good framework. Most of the other states have either followed it or wished they followed it,” Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) said earlier this year, adding that “a big focus for me was I was so nervous about kids,” but his fears have been alleviated, thankfully.
“I think we’ve proven and demonstrated that there is no increase in experimentation among teenagers. There is no change in frequency of use, no change in driving while high—all the things we most worried about didn’t come to pass,” Hickenlooper said.
Colorado is serving yet again as an exemplary model for cannabis legalization. Not only have they contributed to harm reduction by reducing underage DUIs, but more and more kids are waiting until they’re legally of age before trying cannabis. Prohibitionists can take a look at these promising numbers and eat their words. Enjoyed that first hit? Come chill with us every week at the Friday Sesh for a freshly packed bowl of the week’s best cannabis news!