Youth Marijuana Use Increased Across Colorado Last Year

Marijuana use among teens increased in Colorado from 2017 to 2019, according to a recently published survey by the state Department of Public Health and Environment, which found that Pueblo and Denver schools posted the highest rates in the state.

According to the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, in 2019, 20.6 percent of Colorado students over fourteen reported that they'd used marijuana one or more times in the past thirty days, while 51.4 percent said that marijuana was easy for them to get. In 2017, 19.4 percent of Colorado kids said they'd smoked weed within the last thirty days, but slightly more (53.5 percent) thought it was easy to obtain.

A project conducted every two years to monitor teen drug and alcohol use, mental health, bullying, sexual activity and other adolescent issues, the survey was given to 53,520 students at 195 of Colorado's 805 middle and high schools in 2019, and is the CDPHE's largest sampling of drug and alcohol use habits by teens across the state.

In 2019, Pueblo saw the highest rate of high-schoolers admitting to using marijuana once or more within the last thirty days: 27 percent, up slightly from the numbers in 2017. Denver's 25.5 percent, the second-highest rate among state school districts, reflected a much bigger increase; that percentage was 20.9 in 2017.

A study of Denver students in 2019 commissioned by the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses found that 17 percent admitted to using marijuana at least once a month, but that survey included thirteen- and fourteen-year-olds, both of which had relatively low marijuana usage rates in the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey. The Denver survey had quizzed about 1,000 students, while the Denver portion of Healthy Kids Colorado has surveyed over 1,900.

High schools in Adams (18 percent), Douglas (13.3 percent), Jefferson (19.5 percent) and Larimer (17.4 percent) counties all had lower marijuana use rates than the state average in 2019, according to Healthy Kids Colorado, while Arapahoe County (23.2 percent), Boulder and Broomfield counties (22.6 percent), Weld County (20.9 percent) and El Paso County (21.5 percent) were all trending above.

According to the middle school portion of the 2019 state survey, 5.2 percent of middle-schoolers admitted to using marijuana within the past thirty days, and 18.7 percent said they considered marijuana easy to get; the 2017 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey didn't have specific data available for middle school marijuana use.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, last year 6.6 percent of eighth-graders, 18.4 percent of tenth-graders and 22.3 percent of twelfth-graders across the country reported marijuana use within the past thirty days.

The 2019 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey also found that 29.6 percent of Colorado teens had consumed at least one drink of alcohol within the last thirty days, up just under 1 percent from the 2017 rate, while 6.9 percent admitted to using prescription painkillers without a doctor's prescription (that question wasn't asked in 2017).
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