^
Keep Westword Free
4

Underage Pot Use Down in Colorado

Programs like D.A.R.E. and the Just Say No campaign might not have kept the nation's youth from smoking pot, but it's possible that legalization could.

According to two recent studies, states that have legalized the recreational use of marijuana are seeing a decrease in illegal use by young people. Officials in both Colorado and Washington have reported a decrease in the use of marijuana by underage consumers, and credit increased education about the real effects of the drug, cutting back on the black market, and tight restrictions to enter a regulated dispensary.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment cited this "encouraging trend" in its annual report on marijuana-related health concerns. Not only that, but "among adolescents, past month marijuana use is lower than past month alcohol use."

Mason Tvert, the Denver-based director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, was quick to share the good news. "The state is also reaping the benefits of replacing an underground market with a tightly regulated system," he said in a recent statement. "Marijuana is now being sold in licensed businesses rather than out on the street. It is being properly tested, packaged and labeled, and it is only being sold to adults who show proof of age. The system is working."

Other reports back him up.

Every year since 1992, the National Institute on Drug Abuse's annual Monitoring the Future survey has asked eighth-grade and tenth-grade students how easy it is to get their hands on marijuana. Last year the responses indicated that getting access to marijuana is more difficult than since the survey started.

I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

Access to marijuana was reportedly down to 34.6 percent for eighth-grade respondents, 2.4 percentage points lower than previous years. Sixty-four percent of tenth-graders said the drug was easy to acquire, and while that percentage may seem high, it's actually the lowest it's ever been, according to a summary of the survey.

In another study commissioned by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, rates of teen marijuana use in Colorado and Washington dropped from 2014 to 2015, the year after both states legalized recreational use of the drug.

The rate of twelve- to seventeen-year-olds who used marijuana dropped 1.43 percentage points the year the drug was first sold legally in the state, the report determined, while the rest of the country only reported a 0.02 percent drop.

“I don’t have an explanation. This is somewhat surprising,” admits Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which commissions the annual survey. “We had predicted based on the changes in legalization, culture in the U.S. as well as decreasing perceptions among teenagers that marijuana was harmful that [accessibility and use] would go up. But it hasn’t gone up."

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.

 

Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.