Cannabis legalization has had unpredictable effects on the state of Colorado. Previously, officials assumed tourists would hoard recreational weed from retail shops, and decided to limit purchasing amounts. They were wrong (the cap was recently increased).
Authorities also thought that legalization would cause students to smoke more pot, since availability would increase exponentially. A study (conducted every two years) from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in collaboration with the University of Colorado, suggests they were wrong about that one too.
“The survey shows marijuana use has not increased since legalization, with four of five high school students continuing to say they don’t use marijuana, even occasionally,” said the department in a statement.
No Increase (from 2011)
The voluntary survey, which consisted of 17,000 participants from 157 local high schools and middle schools, compared marijuana use between Colorado-based students and out-of-state teens. According to the study’s results, roughly 21.2 percent of survey participants in 2015 used weed in the past 30 days from the date the survey was administered. In other states, the average rate was established at 21.7 percent. Before the passing of recreational cannabis laws in 2011, weed usage rates by Colorado high school students was at 22 percent. The study also revealed that only 11 percent of participants acquired cannabis through an individual with a medical marijuana card or using their own medical marijuana card. Majority of respondents obtained weed from “someone” or via other undisclosed methods, which made up 79 percent of the answers.
The report, titled “Healthy Kids Colorado Survey,” showed that a whopping 62 percent of students have never used cannabis. A different version of the survey, conducted in 2009, indicated that 24.8 percent of teens used the herb in the past 30 days, and in 2013 that figure fell drastically to 19.7 percent. Larry Wolk, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, reassured concerned parents that the slight increase in 2015 was not significant, and was likely due to data oversight during computation.
“Most of the legal changes have pertained only to those 21 and over, so the absence of a big increase in teens is exactly what you’d expect,” said Jonathan Caulkins of Carnegie Mellon University about a similar report in December 2015.
Alcohol and Tobacco
Alcohol is still a problem for the teenage demographic, and recreational weed laws had little effect on underage consumption. The survey highlighted that 17 percent of participants binge drank in the past month. Surprisingly, cigarette use among Colorado high school students reached a record low with only one in 10 teens admitting to be habitual smokers. However, around 25 percent of respondents confessed to using an e-cigarette or vapor-based products in the past 30 days.
When it comes to prescription opioids, around 14 percent of teens (below the national average) mentioned they used pharmaceutical products without a prescription. Cocaine and ecstasy use reached six percent, which compared to other teens in the U.S., is slightly more widespread.