Marijuana study latest evidence MMJ doesn't boost teen use, advocate says

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Granted, Vicente has a dog in this fight: He's among the primary proponents of Amendment 64, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act. As such, he's heartened by the conclusions reached by a team that includes UCD Professor Daniel Rees, based on data collected for the years 1993 to 2009 -- a period when thirteen states, including Colorado, legalized medical marijuana. The researchers report no statistical evidence that MMJ legalization caused more teens to toke.

Vicente sees the survey as part of a trend. "This is the second such report we've seen in just a matter of two weeks showing that regulating marijuana sales leads to a decrease in teen use."

The other study Vicente references is the Center for Disease Control's National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, made public on June 7. The headline item from the study was data positing that more teens are currently using marijuana than smoke cigarettes. But although overall teen marijuana use went up across the country, Colorado went the other direction, with the teen numbers actually declining from 2009 to 2011 -- the period Vicente refers to as the medical marijuana "green rush" in the state. Here's a graphic depicting these figures.

"This is what we've been saying all along," Vicente allows. "The evidence is clear that regulating marijuana works, and it's the most successful measure to keep it out of the hands of teens. And we feel that regulating all marijuana like alcohol will further reduce marijuana use by teens. Regulating marijuana works for the state by bringing in tax revenue, but perhaps most important, it helps keep marijuana out of the hands of teens -- and that's one of the goals of our campaign."

Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, who's heading up Smart Colorado, which opposes Amendment 64, argues precisely the opposite. In an interview last week, Buck predicted that if the proposal is approved, "we're going to see a proliferation of marijuana and a proliferation of young people using marijuana. We're going to see expulsion and dropout rates increase in our K-12 system."

In addition, Buck drew a contrast between "people who have a profit motive" -- i.e., the measure's supporters -- "and a group that has a concern about the health of our children. That's the real difference on this issue. For people involved in the marijuana industry, this is an investment in their future. For people opposed, the investment is in our children."

Vicente's response?

Page down to continue reading about the new University of Colorado Denver study.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts