Colorado Survey Finds Adolescent Marijuana Use Did Not Rise After Legalization

The results contrast with those from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.



The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reports that the state's latest survey of teenagers "shows marijuana use has not increased since legalization." In 2015 the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey (HKCS), which is conducted every two years, found that 21 percent of high school students said they had consumed cannabis in the previous month, down slightly from 22 percent in 2011, the year before Colorado voters approved marijuana legalization, and up slightly from 20 percent in 2013, the year before state-licensed marijuana stores began serving recreational customers. The share of high school students who said they had ever used marijuana followed a similar pattern, dropping from 39 percent in 2011 to 37 percent in 2013, then rising to 38 percent last year. Since these differences are not statistically significant, the rate of marijuana use among Colorado teenagers was essentially unchanged during this period. And according to the survey report, "Colorado does not significantly differ from the national average in lifetime or current marijuana use."

These results contrast with those from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), which pot prohibitionists like to cite. In that survey, which has a much smaller Colorado sample, the share of 12-to17-year-olds reporting past-month marijuana use rose from 10.5 percent in 2011-12 to 12.6 percent in 2013-14, although the change was not statistically significant. This NSDUH estimate, which is based on two years of data because of the small sample size, has been rising more or less steadily since 2006, so the post-2012 increase (assuming it's real) may or may not be related to legalization. NSDUH, unlike HKCS, also finds that adolescent marijuana use is more common in Colorado than in other states and has been for years, going back before legalization. 

Just as the prohibitionists at the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area prefer the NSDUH data, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) prefers the HKCS numbers. "These statistics clearly debunk the theory that making marijuana legal for adults will result in more teen use," says MPP Communications Director Mason Tvert. "Levels of teen use in Colorado have not increased since it ended marijuana prohibition, and they are lower than the national average. Elected officials and voters in states that are considering similar proposals should be wary of claims that it will hurt teens. Colorado is proving that you do not need to arrest thousands of responsible adult marijuana consumers in order to prevent consumption by teens. State and local officials now have more control than ever over who is selling marijuana, and there are strict rules in place to prevent sales to minors. Regulation is working."

Although I am sympathetic to that view, it is still possible that diversion from legal adult buyers will, on balance, make it easier for teenagers to obtain marijuana, albeit not directly from retailers. The 2015 HKCS is reassuring on that score, since it was conducted after the first full year of legal recreational sales and partway into the second year. But it is still premature to draw firm conclusions about how legalization will affect underage consumption.

NEXT: Is Britain About to Leave the European Union?

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    1. No adult should have access to anything that could be be bad for an 8 year old. If that means treating adults like children, it’s just the price of civilization.

  2. ….but, toddlers were finding marijuana cookies just laying in their yards the first week of legalization.

  3. Millennials and their younger cousins continue to disappoint. Killjoys.

    1. Look on the bright side: maybe they’re just lying to pollsters like everyone ought to.

        1. I can’t exactly search for validating studies at the moment, but i’ve heard anecdotally that the majority of kids lose their virginity in college these days.

          the shift since the 1980s has basically moved the average up about 3-4 years. which may not seem like much, but it seems like a world of difference to me, biologically. I’d guess the split was like 25/50/25 (“junior high/high school/college”) when i was a kid; and that now its something like 10/30/60. Obviously those numbers probably vary wildly depending on one’s surroundings/economic conditions, etc.

          The general point i think its indicative of is “expected average age of maturity”; and that it has moved forward dramatically.

          e.g. in the 80s, you probably got drunk a few times, had learned to drive, had been in a few fist-fights, and at least gotten to “3rd base” by the time you were 16. By the time you were 18, the majority were “modestly salty” – i.e. had accumulated a variety of experience w/ sex, drugs, alcohol, jobs, independence…and probably had been in at least one modest “scrape” where you’d personally made some Very Bad Decisions or possibly been around someone else who had done so, and had “matured” somewhat..

          I think for most kids, this is now “21-22” or later.

          I don’t really have any perspective on whether this is bad, good, means nothing, or what. it just “is”. I’m not sure how much further it could practically go, however.

          1. More legal virgins? That’s a positive development.

            1. Why? Fewer kids running around?

            2. this suggests that my anecdotal evidence is probably wrong, and that its more or less still exactly the way i described (“17-18” being the peak of the bell-curve) ; it doesn’t show changes over time, tho the CDC data cited is done every 10 years or so, so there should be some way to see if there’s any directional trend

              this (can’t link to source) suggests the trend has been ‘slightly older’

              The Guttmacher Institute, an organization that advances sexual and reproductive health worldwide through research and public education, in their article Facts on American Teens’ Sexual and Reproductive Health state that:

              ? Most young people have had sex for the first time by the age of 17.

              ? Teens are waiting longer to have sex than they did in the past ? with 13% of never-married females and 15% never-married males aged 15-19 had sex before age 15 compared with 19% and 21%, respectively, in 1995.

              ? About half of teens 15-19yo in the U.S. have had sex at least once ? meaning half of teens 15-19yo have not had sex at least once.

              I guess the difference is not so much the average, but maybe a compression towards the mean – and far fewer young teens getting preggers.

          2. I’ll argue it’s bad.

            All those things you mention are learning experiences that prepare you for life as an independent human being. The whole idea being to get your fuck-ups out of the way and learn from them BEFORE you become completely accountable for them. Everybody expects kids to fuck-up. Not so much when you are 22.

            1. Unless, of course, your career path is politics.

              1. Then you’re expected to never stop.

            2. I’d probably agree. i’m not sure the “sex” part has changed as much as assumed, but (still relying partly on anecdote) it may be that a lot of the “other stuff” has moved farther up the age-curve.

              i think something i mentioned in passing above is actually more significant than it might seem =

              e.g how many people here knew kids who got

              a) pregnant
              b) killed
              c) jailed – seriously so

              during high school ?

              I think i could personally count at least ‘a few’ of each. i think that is less common now. and its probably a ‘good thing’ in general –

              but my point is that what contributes to “maturity” is often not just what happens to you, but involves living in a world where you see bad decisions having consequences for others, and you adjusting your behavior/assumptions accordingly.

              1. A girl who attended my high school got impregnated by two separate guys a year apart. She was one of the dumbest sack-of-hammers-type morons I’ve ever met. As far as I know, she still needed her mother to wash her hair for her. But her parents were wealthy, so she didn’t end up sucking dick for nickels and dimes.

                1. But her parents were wealthy


                  the data above shows some interesting (and what should be intuitive) ‘facts’.

                  Boys lose their virginity on average earlier than girls. the mean difference is only 1-2 years, but what it really indicates is that “lots of boys lose their virginity to a small(er) number of sexually active girls”

                  aka = what they called “sluts”. God bless them.

                  I think 5 girls were probably responsible for taking the virginity of about half of my graduating class.

                  And, contra what one might assume – they were often the “Rich girls” rather than the skankier working-class girls (*who, while they might also have ‘started early’, also married v/ early)

                  i think there’s very much a “because I can get away with it”-factor involved. i’ll also note – many/most of those girls went on to have very happy/successful lives.

              2. a) many
                b) 3 auto accidents, 1 suicide,1 murdered (working as a clerk in a motorcycle store during a robbery)
                c) the guy who murdered the guy above….his younger brother (my friend) turned him in

                1. his younger brother (my friend) turned him in

                  Snitches, Granny… You know the rule.

                  1. This guy needed to be turned in. He was a fucking sociopath. Clearing the young proto Dahmers out is a public service even in the hood.

              3. I think i could personally count at least ‘a few’ of each. i think that is less common now. and its probably a ‘good thing’ in general –

                Are we counting per person or per offense? My junior year, one of the baby-daddy’s beat his infant child to death and met his fate in prison. Does he count as 1 or 3?

                I think this and future generations are going to see more death of apathy/boredom (suicide) than the more violent/competitive crime/death that previous generations saw. I think, to a degree, our skills learned avoiding scrapes will/do poorly translate.

                1. I think this and future generations are going to see more death of apathy/boredom (suicide) than the more violent/competitive crime/death that previous generations saw.

                  I think that’s probably right.

                  When outside threats and stimulus are diminished, kids are more likely to create them out of thin air. teens need drama like fish need water.

                  Every high-school class sort of “needs” that one instance where some kid gets in a drunk-driving accident and kills 3 people. It’s going to happen to someone. When it does happen, most kids never forget it and it changes their behavior forever. I personally never got behind the wheel after a few beers ever again. and i went from being your typical teen-driver to far more paranoid/mature/safe.

            3. You are right about that Frank. The only problem is people seemed to have forgotten the “before age 22” part. Everyone under 40 now is “just a kid” it seems.

              1. I’m content with that. Extends my freewheeling carefree days another decade.

          3. Geeze. I was 14. Is that wrong?

  4. Is Colorado About To Leave The American Union?

    1. A headline to scare the everloving shit out of the political class:

      “Texas State Legislature ratifies Articles of Rebellion, orders detention of federal officials, mobilizes militia.”

    2. We’re gonna join the United Federation of Planets, dude.

  5. I would like to see these numbers against the same numbers tracking alcohol use.

    Alcohol use should act as a control since it’s been legal all along. There’s been no change in its legality to adults.

    And shouldn’t we expect to see alcohol use and marijuana use among teens–that part that’s attributable to legalization, anyway–converge over time?

    To whatever extent teens can get their hands on marijuana because it’s legal for adults, that should become more similar to whatever extent teens get their hands on alcohol because it’s legal to adults.

    P.S. Anyone who expects that the black market is more restrictive in its sales to minors than licensed sellers are to minors is operating under some highly counter intuitive assumptions. For goodness’ sake, the black market sells in high schools!

    1. #BlackMarketsMatter

    1. Kim Jong Un’s latest execution device?

  6. What’s that, a missile engine?
    presumably south korean?

    1. (^meant as reply to playa)

    2. For their “Space Program”

      1. from translation of the comments, it really does sound like that’s what its being ostensibly developed for.

        of course, the US space program wasn’t itself exactly 100% about the innocent and noble goal of being able to claim “YO WE DID IT FIRST”, as much as it was a convenient parallel test-program for developing the capability to put an ICBM on moscow with reasonable precision.

        1. Yeah, there was some overlap. But a lot of the ICBM stuff had zero possibility for use in space exploration.

          I can’t remember which missile it was, but it accelerated so quickly that it was supersonic before it had even traveled its own length. Can’t put a human being on that.

          1. a lot of the ICBM stuff had zero possibility for use in space exploration.

            oh, sure. I just mean, if you’re going to spend billions on rocket-science programs, you might as well milk as much PR benefit out of it as possible.

  7. I don’t understand people. It is not hard to understand that there is a limited number of people who are going to want to smoke pot. Pot doesn’t work for a lot of people. It just gives some people a headache or makes them sleepy. It also stinks to high heaven and burns your lungs. Especially with so many fewer people smoking, the appeal of smoking pot is not even as high as it used to be.

    And even if you enjoy it, that doesn’t mean you will be anything more than an occasional user. Going through life as a stoner generally sucks just like going through life as a drunk sucks. Even if you gave the shit away, even kids are not going to turn into stoned out losers unless that is what they would have been anyway.

    People have this mythical idea that drugs make otherwise responsible people into degenerates. They cannot seem to grasp the reality that drugs are at most a tool for degenerates to show their degeneracy.

    1. It also stinks to high heaven and burns your lungs. Especially with so many fewer people smoking, the appeal of smoking pot is not even as high as it used to be.

      John don’t know ’bout VAPE NASH Y’ALL!

      This is why John will never chase the fattest clouds and rip the fattest vapes.

      Papa bless!


      1. You can’t vape pot can you?

        1. You can, It’s in the Constitution.

            1. Truly, he was the father of this great vape nation of ours.

        2. The vape nation encompasses all vapes in its collective quest to chase the fattest clouds and rip the fattest vapes.


        3. I think you have some catching up to do

          1. I guess I do. Even vaped, a lot of people still don’t like the high pot gives you. And even if you do, most people have better things to do than going through life stoned.

            1. You may think you’ve commented on, but have you ever tried it.. on weed?

      2. That’s the wrong kind of fat for John.

    2. I’ve known several people who casually used cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana, steroids, and prescription medications recreationally. I can’t name a single one whose life was lessened in productivity, or even normalcy, by these substances.

      The only degenerate addict I knew was a rabid alcoholic, and his psychological brokenness was born of being sexually abused as a young child.

      1. I know tons of people who did coke recreationally in the 1970s and early 80s. People didn’t think it was addictive back then. And one of them were ever addicts or seemed to be any worse for wear.

        Hell, the air force gives its pilots speed. Half of most rich high schools are on adderall, which is nothing but pharmaceutical grade meth.

        I honestly think we could solve the drug war by legalizing pharmaceutical grade speed, cocaine and opium along with pot and call it a day. Anyone who would buy meth made in someone’s basement when they could buy pharmaceutical grade speed legally, deserves whatever they get.

        1. Adderall is amphetamine, not methamphetamine.

          1. They are not chemically the same but they seem to have very similar effects. From what I have read adderall is closer to meth in many ways than it is to speed.

            1. It IS speed.

              Whatever you’ve read is wrong.

              1. Chemically it is not speed.

                1. Yes, it is. It’s a racemic mixture of 4 amphetamine salts that have different half-lives in the bloodstream

                  One of them is dextroamphetamine sulfate. You might know it as dexadrine. You know, speed.

                  1. Dexadrine used to be in diet pills back when they actually worked.

      2. I can’t name a single one whose life was lessened in productivity

        In contrast, most of the reductions in my productivity have come at the hands of rod-up-their-ass bureaucrats who MIGHT have a snifter of brandy once a week.

        1. We won two World Wars and built the freest most productive country in history generally drinking like fish. I think it is fair to say abstinence generally doesn’t agree with America.

          1. I think it’s fair and safe to say that when you raise your kids to be adults, with a genuine understanding of responsibility, it doesn’t matter how much, how little, or what they drink, eat, or smoke.

            Prohibitionists are eternal infants.

            1. True, and prohibition (of any kind) tends to create more eternal infants.

          2. Candidate A: Associates with crooked politicians, and consults with astrologers. He’s had two mistresses. He also chain smokes and drinks 8 to 10 martinis a day.

            Candidate B: He was kicked out of office twice, sleeps untill noon, used opium in college and drinks a quart of whiskey every evening.

            Candidate C: He is a decorated war hero. He’s a vegetarian, doesn’t smoke, drinks an occasional beer and hasn’t had any extra-marital affairs.

            Which of these candidates would be your choice?
            And the candidates are:
            Candidate A is Franklin D. Roosevelt
            Candidate B is Winston Churchill
            Candidate C is Adolf Hitler

            1. Churchill had a weak scotch and soda form morning till night, a small bottle of champagne with lunch, and at dinner and after there was whiskey and brandy, and lived until he was 90.

              “I’ve taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me.”

              1. So the key to longevity is staying slightly buzzed all day.

            2. No way in hell would I vote for a vegetarian.

              1. word

    3. drugs are at most a tool for degenerates to show their degeneracy.

      John, you apologize to the DEA right now!

    4. Lots of people are vaping pot now, John. Either extracts or the plant itself. So “smoking icky” isn’t really a deterrent to using pot any more.

      Its also possible to use pot every day without being a stoned out loser, just like its possible to drink every day without being a wet brained bum.

      That said, people who wreck their lives with one drug (heroin, pot, booze, whatev) were likely going to wreck their lives with some other drug, if their fave isn’t available. The “gateway drug” for most addicts is just the one they tried first before finding their fave.

      1. people who wreck their lives with one drug (heroin, pot, booze, whatev) were likely going to wreck their lives with some other drug, if their fave isn’t available.

        Or to be more succinct, a Kennedy.

        1. Except that Kennedy’s are not dangerous except when you get them around water. They are kind of like Gremlins. Just don’t let them out after midnight and never let them near water.

          1. Except that Kennedy’s are not dangerous except when you get them around water.

            And Congress

      2. Its also possible to use pot every day without being a stoned out loser,

        I suppose but absent having serious chronic pain or something, I really don’t know why you would want to be stoned every day. And I say that as someone who back in the day generally liked the stuff.

        1. I’ve always hated marijuana. I’ve attempted it thrice throughout the years (not recently, admittedly), and it never appealed to me in the slightest.

          1. I would say well over half of the people I know who have ever tried pot would agree with you. It is a pretty acquired taste.

            1. I would say that about alcohol. I would rather toke socially than drink because alcohol makes me feel nauseous and just tastes like crap unless you dilute it with a ton of sugary stuff.

              1. True but of the people I know who have tried drinking, a smaller percentage of them are like you than the people I know who have tried pot and are like Thymirus. It is rare to find someone who finds the feeling of being drunk unpleasant. And at least half the people I know who have tried pot find the feeling of being stoned unpleasant.

                1. Most people I know don’t like to drink to the point where they are drunk; buzzed maybe. On the flip side, I neither have nor have I known anyone who has awaken the next morning with a hangover from smoking pot.

          2. I like pot okay, but having waited until a couple years ago to try it, I can’t really see what all the fuss is about. I was pro-legalization before I tried it, and now that I have tried it, I’m dumbfounded that there’s been so much resistance to it.

            That’s been my pot experience; OTOH, Mushrooms and LSD are just simply amazing.

        2. I suppose but absent having serious chronic pain or something, I really don’t know why you would want to be stoned every day.

          You could ask the same question about people who have a drink every day. Some people just prefer one buzz to the other. Its possible to have a mild buzz from either, you know.

          You seem to think that there is one mode of smoking pot – blazing up and getting wasted right out of bed, and staying blasted all day long. That’s no more true of pot than it is of booze.

    5. I grew up with a guy who’s whole life was a slow motion suicide with whatever substance was to hand. Pot, coke, food, smokes, alcohol…lots and lots of alcohol. He died in his early 50’s, on the couch in his house trailer one night, and his buddies threw a sheet over him and kept partying till dawn, when someone decided maybe they should call someone. Talk about degenerate. You think he cared if something was legal or not? or that a law was going to save him from himself.

      1. My dad had a guy who worked for him that was generally a great guy and quite brilliant except that he was a complete degenerate drunk. He ended up passing out in his unheated garage and freezing to death.

        Some people are just self destructive. The problem is the person not the drugs.

        1. That’s exactly why building codes are needed, with building code SWAT teams on standby, reading to pounce at a moment’s notice, to ensure all garages are heated in America.

          When people are freezing to death in temperature-uncontrolled garages in this country, you don’t necessarily need that sweet ’69 Stingray.

          In fact, ban garages.


      2. I’ve watched ‘Law & Order’, Mainer. I know what drugs do to people. You can’t fool me.


        1. The blogger Stacy McCain had a blog post a while back that read almost just like that. McCain is generally a fairly smart and reasonable guy but man is he stupid when it comes to drugs. The point of the post was that there were all of these stoned out losers and if you legalize pot we will end up with so many of them that society will no longer function. The idea that most people don’t want to be stoned out losers and are not prevented from being so by pot being illegal never seems to occur to him. Yet, he says that he would never be a stoned out loser. If it would choose not to be, why does he think no one else would?

          1. Because his cluelessness shields him from needing to justify his beliefs logically. We’ve no shortage of such people.

  8. Dianne Feinstein’s Pleasure Raisin? Lovely.

    1. It was on the morning links. Clearly we need common sense Limey control.

      1. I always laugh when my countrymen idolize the British. I’m sure there are many who’ll be doing the same with this asshole.

        1. I am a bit of an anglophile. I would still rather be an American, however.

  9. OT but I had to post this as soon as I saw it. The New York Times writes an article about a study (from the Obama administration) that supposedly provides evidence for the notion that rigid European labor laws and large social programs do not suppress employment, and in fact that the US’s more flexible laws may actually do so. The data cited:

    “Yet a higher proportion of working-age men are in the labor force in many of these countries with inflexible labor market policies. In the United States, 12 percent of 25- to 54-year-old men were neither working nor looking for work in 2014. That number was 7 percent in Spain and France, and 4 percent in Japan. And that’s despite a more generous social safety net in those countries that would, you might think, make it easier to drop out of the work force.”

    Got that? They’re citing the number “neither working nor looking for work.” Not actual employment figures. I highly doubt Spain and France come out ahead considering they’re overall unemployment rates are over 20% and 10%, respectively, while the US is below 5%. I’m not sure why they would think that rigid labor laws primarily suppress the supply side (“labor”) rather than the demand side (“employers”). The argument has always been that these laws reduce the attractiveness (to businesses) of adding new employees.

    1. Link…..ection=The Upshot&pgtype=article

    2. Disingenuous assholes being the people we know they are.

    3. Very slippery. It also conflates full-time work with casual or part-time work.

      In the US, working “on the books” is a net loser for somebody on welfare. Not sure if the same is true in Europe or Japan.

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  11. Check out this article about the present state of bills around the US pertaining to the War on Drugs and another overview of the issue. It gives great context to the current state of this war in US legislation.

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