Study Shows Dispensaries Aren't Changing How Much Kids Smoke Pot

A recent study published in the Journal of Substance Use and Misuse shows that retail marijuana stores aren't changing the rate of marijuana consumption among children in Colorado. Led by researchers from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus College of Nursing and Department of Community and Behavioral Health, the yearlong project studied how the first year of legalized marijuana sales affected the rate of marijuana use among adolescents, and the public's perception of children's access to marijuana.

Results showed that regulated marijuana businesses brought "little change" to youth marijuana use. However, the perception of access, or how easy the public thinks it is for children to access marijuana, has increased significantly since legalization, according to the study.

The study looked at results from forty schools featured in the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, comparing the rates of self-reported marijuana use, ease of access, and perceived harms among middle school and high school children in 2013 to the same categories in 2014 (the first year of recreational marijuana sales), while also measuring the proximity of dispensaries to schools. According to the study's conclusion, adolescent marijuana use behaviors, wrongness of use, and perceptions of risk of harm were unchanged from the previous year's baseline.

"In the first study of adolescent marijuana use and perceptions after state retail implementation of recreational marijuana, there was little change in adolescent marijuana use," the study reads, "but a significant change in perception of ease of access." While the schools studied in the Healthy Kids Colorado survey didn't show a rise in use, the perception of how easy it was to access marijuana grew from 46 percent to 52 percent from 2013 to 2014.

Letting the data speak for itself, the study's authors — Scott Harpin, Ashley Brooks-Russell, Ming Ma, Katherine James and Arnold Levinson — weren't quick to jump to any conclusions. "Public health workers and policymakers should continue to monitor these changes as essential for evaluating the impact of liberalization of marijuana policies," the study concluded.

According to the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, the rate of children of all schools surveyed who had used marijuana once in their lifetime or in the past thirty days had both risen 1 percent from 2013 to 2015.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Thomas Mitchell has written about all things cannabis for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate and general news along the way for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman and Fox Sports. He's currently the cannabis editor for
Contact: Thomas Mitchell