Survey Shows Marijuana Use Dropping Among Colorado Teens

Marijuana consumption among Colorado high school students dropped significantly from 2019 to 2021, according to a survey conducted by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The CDPHE's Healthy Kids Colorado Survey is conducted every other year to monitor teen drug and alcohol use, mental health, bullying, sexual activity and other adolescent issues. After contacting nearly 107,000 students at 340 schools in 51 counties across the state, the survey found that 13.3 percent of high school students admitted to using marijuana once or more in the past thirty days, down from 20.6 percent in 2019 and 21.2 percent in 2015.

In 2019, 35.8 percent of high-schoolers said they had used marijuana at least once in their lives. By 2021, that number had dropped to 26.1 percent, the CDPHE notes.

According to data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the national rate of marijuana use within the past thirty days among twelfth-graders across the country was 19.5 percent in 2021; it was 10.1 percent among tenth-graders.

Although overall consumption is dropping among Colorado high-schoolers, the number of students consuming extracted marijuana products with high amounts of THC stayed relatively flat in 2021, survey results show. According to the CDPHE, 49.2 percent of high school students who'd consumed marijuana in the past thirty days reported dabbing as one of their consumption methods. That percentage is slightly down from the 52 percent of high-schoolers who admitted to dabbing in the 2019 Healthy Kids Colorado survey, but still significantly higher than the 28 percent rate reported in 2015.

Commercial marijuana concentrates can consist of 60 to upwards of 90 percent THC; they're generally vaporized or inhaled over high heat in a process known as dabbing, which has proven to affect developing brains in users under 25 years of age.Dabbing among Colorado youth and the potency of commercial marijuana products became hot topics at the State Legislature in 2021, with teenage medical marijuana patients viewed as potential suppliers to high-schoolers.

A law eventually passed enacting more restrictions for the state's medical marijuana program, including new daily limits to concentrate purchases and tighter packaging and labeling guidelines for both medical and recreational marijuana concentrate products. While the survey did ask students if they felt it was easy to acquire marijuana (40.3 percent said it was), there were no questions about medical marijuana or medical marijuana patients.

According to the middle-school portion of the CDPHE survey, 3 percent of middle-schoolers admitted to using marijuana within the past thirty days in 2021, down from 5.2 percent in 2019. 

Notable counties among the thirteen that didn't participate in the 2021 survey included El Paso, Mesa and Weld counties.
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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

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