Youth cannabis use drops in Colorado —surprise!

Posted on August 9th, 2014 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , .

ColoradoWell, here's some telling news. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment, cannabis use among Colorado teens has actually dropped slightly since the state legalized recreational use in 2012. Predictably, the bureaucrats did not emphasize these results. The department's Aug. 7 press release stressed another finding from the survey, that showed Colorado teens view cannabis as less risky than they did a few years ago. The release says preliminary results from the 2013 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey show that 54% of teens in the state consider the stuff risky, down from 58% in 2011. "If we want Colorado to be the healthiest state in the nation, then we need to make sure our youngest citizens understand the risks of using potentially harmful substances," said the department's executive director Larry Wolk. It was left to the Washington Examiner to tout the department's other findings—that even if kids view pot as less risky, they are also smoking it less. Kayvan Khalatbari, co-foundet the Denver Relief dispensary, is quoted venturing a plausible explanation: "Cannabis, now that it's legal, kind of is an old person's drug. It's something that kids are seeing adults use all over the place. It just doesn't seem as cool to kids anymore."

And, as Phoenix New Times noted in reporting the Colorado results, national teen cannabis consumption has actually gone up a few points in recent years. Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project, told the Examiner: "Even if it's not statistically significant, Colorado is bucking the nationwide trend. You couldn't argue that marijuana use is somehow worse among teens in Colorado than other states or the nation as a whole."

If you are looking for bad news to score propaganda points against the legalization policy, some is provided by NBC, which reports on a Colorado man who "overdosed" (something of a loaded word in this context) after eating cannabis-laced chocolate bars he bought from a vendor at the Denver County Fair's "Pot Pavilion." Jordan Coombs' negligence lawsuit states that he "projectile vomited" and was hospitalized after ingesting the candy, and that emergency room physicians diagnosed him "as overdosing on THC." The fair's official policy apparently barred cannabis, so Coombs may have been slipped the candy bars on the sly. In any case, this is not a legitimate argument for going back to prohibition. One of the benefits of legalization is that it allows public oversight. So if cannabis candy is being improperly labelled, authorities should step in and remedy that—not return the stuff to its erstwhile outlaw status, in which authorities had no power to do so!

In any event, the logic of legalization, even from the standpoint of preventing youth cannabis use, is well documented. The Netherlands, where the decrim policy is so liberal that it amounts to de facto legalization, has a lower rate of youth cannabis use than the prohibitionist USA. And contrary to prohibitionist assumptions, rising youth cannabis use here in the United States may not be such a bad thing when you consider that it has coincided with a drop in meth and cocaine use. If kids are getting their kicks with the herb instead of deadly white powder, that can only be considered an improvement from a harm-reduction perspective.

Cross-post to High Times

Graphic: Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection



Racial disparities in arrests persist with legal cannabis

Global Ganja Report's picture

A new report from the Drug Policy Alliance shows that cannabis arrests in Colorado all but stopped after voters made the drug legal in 2012—but that racial inequalities in arrests continue. Even after legalization, Blacks are more than twice as likely as white people to be charged with public consumption of marijuana, which remains a crime. Blacks are also much more likely to be charged with illegal cultivation or possession in excess of the state limit of one ounce. "I don't think young black or brown people are more likely to flout marijuana law than white people," said Art Way, Colorado director for the Drug Policy Alliance. "Legalization is no panacea for the longtime issues that law enforcement had with the black and brown community." (AP via High Times, March 25) 

Comment by Global Ganja Report on Apr 2nd, 2015 at 4:32 pm

Denver cannabis boom fueling gentrification?

Bill Weinberg's picture That's the gist of a Dec. 21 report in Revolution News, which finds:

"The situation in Denver has long passed the tipping point; since recreational marijuana was legalized in 2013 it is estimated that over 10,000 people a month are moving to this city... Unlike other cities that have seen massive gentrification there are no rent control laws in Denver... so landlords can essentially do whatever they want. It was not uncommon for renters in Denver to see their rent go up from 30% to 100% from 2013-2014. This displaced countless working people and caused the homeless population to skyrocket.

"The largest population of homeless people, and the most common center of convergence is the area around the Denver Rescue Mission. Driving past this area at any point over the past 5 years, it eerily looked like a camp that one might find on the outskirts of a warzone or environmental catastrophe... Most of the services that provide for homeless people are in this area, and as a result, this area is where they gather.. Since marijuana legalization, the city blocks surrounding this area have been fully re-developed with modern-style homogenized lofts, perfect for the upwardly mobile young people flooding this city with their blandness & money. Over the past few months, angry gentrifiers have colluded with the local neighborhood association to break this community up.

"Unlike other large 'liberal' cities, homelessness has essentially been made illegal here. In 2012, the city passed an urban camping ban which made sleeping under any sort of cover (blanket, tent, etc.) punishable for up to a year in jail. The city uses the threat of the camping ban as the backdrop to harass and intimidate this vulnerable population, and will usually just charge people they want to fuck with with various petty civil offenses. Denver Homeless Out Loud has done extensive polling on the issue and its results can be found here."

Comment by Bill Weinberg on Dec 24th, 2015 at 5:26 am

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