When you legalize recreational marijuana in a state, residents become a bunch of stoned zombies and kids as young as 5 start gobbling up pot brownies, right? That’s what marijuana opponents would have you believe, but a new report, “Monitoring Health Concerns Related to Marijuana in Colorado 2016,” shows otherwise. 

Recreational marijuana has been legal in Colorado since 2012, and retail sales of weed began in 2014. According to the report, many of the numbers have remained stagnant in the 3 years since residents were granted legal access to marijuana. Surveys for the report began in 2014, and updates were made through 2016.

Let’s take a look at some of the key findings.

Adults and Pot

Source: Associated Press

Between 13% and 17% of Colorado adults age 18 and up had used marijuana in the month before the 2015 survey, representing no significant statistical difference from 2014 to 2015. The number of adults who use marijuana in Colorado continues to be higher than the national average, which was 8%. [1]

Teens and Marijuana Use

Source: Very Well

In 2015, about 21% of Colorado high school students had used marijuana in the month preceding the survey, which was not a statistically significant change from 2013, when teen use was 20%. That number is nearly identical to national estimates (22%).

The most recent data shows that between 2012 and 2014, 14% of adolescents ages 14-17 had used pot in the preceding month. This figure is less than in 2013, when 19% of students imbibed.

In 2015, past-month marijuana use among high schoolers in Colorado was 21% – lower than the percentage of teens using alcohol (30%).

Twenty-seven percent of teens who had used pot in the past month used it daily or near-daily.

Very few middle school students in Colorado reported using marijuana, according to 2015 data, which show that just 8% had ever used, and just 4% had used within the past month.

Similarly, the results of a 6-year study were released in July 2016, showing that marijuana use among teens in Colorado had not changed much since marijuana was legalized.

Marijuana Around Young Children

In 2015, 8% of adults with children in the house (1-14 years) had marijuana or marijuana products somewhere in their home. Encouragingly, most adults take the risks to their children’s health seriously, with 82% reporting that they kept their marijuana and marijuana products stored safely.

Adults who don’t store their marijuana safely are in the minority, but it’s a pretty big minority – 18%. Based on that number, it’s estimated that about 14,000 homes in Colorado with kids ages 1-14 had marijuana in the home which was inappropriately (and potentially recklessly) stored.

Additionally, children in that age range were potentially exposed to secondhand marijuana smoke or vapor in approximately 16,000 homes.

However, the Retail Marijuana Public Health Advisory Committee says that calls to poison control and marijuana-related emergency department visits are down, even though overall pot consumption has remained steady. This suggests that existing policy and education efforts have been effective.

Mike Van Dyke, chief of Colorado’s Environmental Epidemiology, Occupational Health and Toxicology branch, referring to the drop in ER visits and poison center calls, said:

“I think that speaks to a learning effect. The public is really learning the message, if not from us, from their own experience.” [2]

On October 1, 2016, a law went into effect in Colorado requiring all edible marijuana products to be individually wrapped in childproof packaging and stamped with a diamond-shaped label including the letters “THC” – on the packaging and on the products. The new “universal symbol” was intended to give edibles a uniform look and keep the products out of the hands of children.

Overall Findings of the Report

The report showed areas that certainly need improvement – such as the percentage of children who live in homes where marijuana is not safely stored. But many of the findings were encouraging as well, including:

  • No new disparities in marijuana use by age, gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation have been identified since legalization.
  • Adults use marijuana daily far less than they use alcohol or nicotine. Among teens, past month marijuana use is lower than past month alcohol use. [1]

Said Van Dyke:

“We are doing our best to study this closely and monitor what’s going on. While maybe not apparent from this report, we are taking this evidence base that we’re developing, and we are using it to develop prevention campaigns, education campaigns. We are doing our best to implement an evidence-based policy.” [2]

Sources:

[1] Monitoring Health Concerns Related to Marijuana in 2016

[2] The Cannabist

Associated Press

Very Well


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About Julie Fidler:
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Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.