Opposing results seen in the same marijuana study


Two groups that support or oppose legalized recreational marijuana are looking at the same report and seeing something that supports their views.

The latest edition of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health released by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration shows that teen use of marijuana in Colorado for ages 12-17 is down substantially.

But that same report also shows a slight increase in pot use for those ages 18-25.

Colorado attorney Brian Vicente, co-director of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol that got Amendment 64 passed in 2012, said the report is good news because it shows the rate of use among those aged 12-17 is lower than it was before legalization.

“These survey results should come as welcome news to anyone who worried teen marijuana use would increase following legalization,” Vicente said. “As a proponent of Amendment 64 and a parent of two young children, they certainly came as welcome news to me.”

The report shows that marijuana use for those aged 12-17 dropped to 9.08 percent in 2015-16, down from 11.13 percent in 2014-15.

In 2011-12, the year before the measure passed, the rate was 10.47 percent, Vicente said.

But the group Smart Colorado, a nonprofit that started after the amendment was passed, and whose mission is to protect youth from marijuana use, pointed to a 0.45 percent increase in pot use for those 18-25, saying those are still formative years for young people.

“Smart Colorado is encouraged by a decrease in past year marijuana use for Colorado kids ages 12-17,” said the group’s executive director, Henny Lasley. “But that optimism 
is offset by an 
increase among those ages 18-25, with nearly half reporting past year use, the third-highest rate in the nation.”

The amendment only legalized recreational marijuana for those 21 and older.

Both sides have been active in urging the state to better regulate recreational marijuana.

Smart Colorado, for example, pushed the Colorado Legislature to approve additional funding for behavioral health professionals to support schools in addressing teen drug use.

Backers of the amendment, meanwhile, pushed for strict penalties for anyone selling pot to minors.

“Colorado is effectively regulating marijuana for adult use,” Vicente said. “There are serious penalties for selling to minors, and regulated cannabis businesses are being vigilant in checking IDs. The days of arresting thousands of adults in order to prevent teens from using marijuana are over.”