MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Colorado Report Says Adolescent Marijuana Use 'Has Not Changed Since Legalization'

Officials also note that reports of marijuana exposures involving children fell last year.

According to a new report from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), cannabis consumption by teenagers in that state "has not changed since legalization either in terms of the number of people using or the frequency of use among users." That conclusion is based partly on data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), the same source that prohibitionists cite when they claim legalization has boosted adolescent pot smoking in Colorado.

The difference is that the CDPHE pays attention to confidence intervals, which show that nominal increases in marijuana use have not been statistically significant. Here is the CDPHE's graph of NSDUH prevalence numbers for teenagers, which also includes data from the Health Kids Colorado Survey (HKCS):

CDPHECDPHE

NSDUH's sample of Colorado teenagers is much smaller than the one used in HKCS, which is why the prevalence estimates are three-year averages. But taking into account the margin of sampling error, neither survey shows an increase in adolescent marijuana use since legalization took effect at the end of 2012. The picture remains the same if you include the most recent NSDUH numbers, which show a statistically insignificant drop in past-month use between 2013-14 and 2014-15, the period when state-licensed marijuana stores began serving recreational consumers in Colorado.

Another hopeful development noted in the report: Marijuana-related calls to the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center, which rose after legalization for three years in a row, fell from 229 in 2015 to 201 in 2016. The center received 40 reports of marijuana exposures involving children 8 or younger last year, down from 48 in 2015.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    I would like to know what effect it has had on asset forfeiture, wrong door cop raids, police shootings, drug busts, etc.

    Has it taken any steam out of the war on drugs or heavy handed police behavior?

  • AlmightyJB||

    Now they just assume everyone with a female in their house or their car is a sex trafficker.

  • ||

    I suspected all along the problem is a culture of thuggery amongst government agents. The war on drugs is just a pretense. Take it away and they will find another pretense. It is going to take more than ending the WOD to fix this problem. We are going to need to affect a society-wide cultural change. A good place to start would be the courts - holding thugs accountable for their behavior. I wont hold my breath on that one.

    *eyes Sessions appointment*

  • AlmightyJB||

    Yeah, keep hearing about deaths due to spiked heroin here in Ohio. You have to kill them to help them

  • Robert||

    Exactly! People who seized on the tax laws of NY as a cause of the death of Eric Garner were way off. Police would've found some excuse no matter what. It's futile to address the problem by trying to take away excuses. It's like trying to prevent big forest fires by preventing sources of ignition, or trying to prevent crime via gun control.

  • AlmightyJB||

    The attack dogs aren't going to change, at some point you have to go after the people holding their leash.

  • Authoritarian Fries||

    We should consider the possibility of genetically modifiying the fear and loathing out of humanity. The answer may be to cure us of our humanity.

  • Zeb||

    I think it's a bit of both. Police culture is nasty and accountability barely exists. But the laws they are tasked with enforcing are part of it as well.

    No, legalizing drugs and letting people sell things on the street won't fix everything. But if you give police fewer reasons to harass people, there will be fewer opportunities for them to find reasons to abuse and brutalize people. Holding police accountable and not giving them the benefit of the doubt quite so much is certainly also necessary.

    But I think the root of the problems with police lies largely in the proliferation of laws criminalizing non-violent consensual activities, which puts police in an adversarial relationship to broader society rather than a protective one. Undoing the bad laws won't undo the terrible police culture that has developed as a result. Not overnight anyway. But I think it's a necessary part of reform.

  • Robert||

    But if you give police fewer reasons to harass people, there will be fewer opportunities for them to find reasons to abuse and brutalize people.


    Not if every encounter is an opp'ty to harass. As long as something, anything is illegal, the harassee can be "suspected" of that. A big jewel heist, for instance.

  • Zeb||

    I guess. If we still have the same number of police after ending the war on drugs, they'll find something to do. Reducing their numbers would have to be part of it, which of course police unions and boosters would freak out about.

    And it also assumes that police will be held even less accountable than they are now. It's pretty easy to gin up some probably cause to search someone for drugs or to suspect them of selling untaxed cigarettes. Less so to find reasonable suspicion to tie someone to a jewel heist or other real crime.

    But, the war on drugs other than weed is unlikely to end. So practically, reining in police and making them more accountable is probably the thing to focus on. Though I don't know if that is very likely to happen to any significant extent either.

  • AlmightyJB||

    "the proliferation of laws criminalizing non-violent consensual activities, which puts police in an adversarial relationship to broader society rather than a protective one"

    Totally agree

  • Will4Freedom||

    What were the numbers of other drugs? Rise, fall or same?

  • Zeb||

    Good question.

    Federal gov. numbers

    Seems like other drugs have seen similar drops in usage by teenagers. Kids are so lame these days.

  • Robert||

    I half hope one of these studies will reveal a (real) significant rise, which, along w other stats, will show cannabis use by kids to be harmless.

  • Konima||

    Jeff Sessions?

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online