Youth cannabis use drops in Colorado —surprise!

Posted on June 22nd, 2016 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , .

Colorado"Colorado teens stubbornly refuse to smoke more weed." That's the smart-alecky headline over a chart of youth cannabis use rates that appeared in the Washington Post June 21. The story cites Colorado Health Department findings that rates of use among the state's teenagers are essentially unchanged in the years since the herb was legalized there in 2012. In last year's figures, 21% of Colorado youths had used cannabis in the past 30 days. That is slightly lower than the national average, and down from 25% in 2009. The findings are based on a random survey of 17,000 middle and high school students. "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," the health department stated.

The findings are a blow to anti-legalization groups like Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which had pointed to recent federal surveys showing teen use rates in Colorado are among the highest nationwide. But the new state survey polled a much larger sample of Colorado students than the federal survey, which polled fewer than 400. "That much larger sample could produce a more accurate estimate," writes the Post.

The Post proffers "a simple reason why legalization may not be having much of an effect on teen marijuana use—adolescents already report that marijuana is widely available. Nationally, roughly 80% of 12th-graders say that pot is easy to get. The kids who want to smoke weed are probably already doing so—and legalization would do little to change that."

We'll venture another reason. Legalizing the stuff eliminates the allure of the forbidden. Adolescents seeking to test the limits of their autonomy or even to break the rules for the sheer thrill of it are less likely to turn to weed if their parents smoke the stuff legally and in the open. We made this point when Colorado announced the findings of its 2014 survey.

Cross-post to High Times

Graphic: Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection


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