New State Reports Show Kids Aren't Smoking More Pot, but Adults Are

Jacqueline Collins
The effects of cannabis legalization in Colorado have become clearer as researchers get more data to analyze, and new state reports indicate that youth use has remained stable after four years of commercial weed.

And adults? Not so much.

According to a biennial survey by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, around one in five of Colorado's youth was using cannabis in 2017 — slightly down from 2013, the year before retail cannabis businesses opened in Colorado. Adult marijuana use, however, increased from 2016 to 2017, according to a separate CPDHE study.

The CDPHE's 2017 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey queried over 15,000 randomly selected students from around 150 middle and high schools; in 2017, 19 percent of the students said that they currently used cannabis. That percentage was 1 percent lower than the same survey's results in 2013 and 2 percent lower than the results in 2015; it's also 1 percent lower than the youth national average, according to the CDPHE.

“Preventing young people from using marijuana is a statewide priority,” Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper said in a statement shortly after the survey results were announced. “While youth use hasn’t gone up, we are working hard to educate Colorado parents and their children about the health and legal risks of underage marijuana use.”

Although youth use didn't go up according to the survey results, Colorado kids believed their peers were consuming pot at a much higher rate. Around four out of five respondents thought their schoolmates currently used cannabis, the survey shows, with around half of respondents feeling that it was easy to get marijuana if you were underage but that using it was also risky.

Kids might be smoking less pot, but adults are toking up at a higher rate, according to the CDPHE Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. A federally funded random telephone survey of Coloradans eighteen and up, the annual study showed that adult use increased from 13.6 percent in 2016 to 15.5 percent in 2017. Current use among those ages 26 to 34 increased from 19.4 percent in 2016 to 26.4 percent in 2017, results show, with current use among those ages 18 to 25 increasing from 25.2 to 29.2 percent in the same period.

Daily use also rose slightly for adults from 2016 to 2017, the CPDPHE says, to 7.6 percent in 2017. The portion of consumers using drinks and edibles by means of ingestion increased as well, hitting 40.4 percent. “The marijuana market in Colorado is evolving,” said CDPHE Chief Medical Officer Dr. Larry Wolk in a statement accompanying the survey resuls. “Our job is to make sure those who choose to use marijuana, use it safely, legally and responsibly.”

Adult use may be on the upswing, but CPDHE survey results suggest that parents are vastly responsible for preventing children from consuming pot. According to the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, children who knew their parents disapproved of consuming underage were 72 percent less likely to do so, while kids with caring teachers or adults to go to for advice were around 30 percent less likely.