Pubdate: Thu, 23 Jun 2016
Source: New Zealand Herald (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2016 New Zealand Herald


Rates of cannabis use among Colorado's teenagers are essentially 
unchanged in the years since the state's voters legalised marijuana 
in 2012, new survey data from the Colorado Department of Public 
Health and Environment shows.

Last year, 21 per cent of Colorado youths had used marijuana in the 
past 30 days. That rate is slightly lower than the national average 
and down slightly from the 25 per cent who used marijuana in 2009, 
before legalisation. The survey was based on a random sample of 
17,000 middle and high school students in Colorado.

"The survey shows marijuana use has not increased since legalisation, 
with four of five high school students continuing to say they don't 
use marijuana, even occasionally," the Colorado health department said.

The numbers out of Colorado are being closely monitored by 
policymakers and advocates on both sides of the marijuana 
legalisation divide. Researchers generally agree that marijuana use 
during adolescence should be strongly discouraged - younger users are 
more likely to become dependent on the drug, and teens who use 
marijuana heavily are at higher risk of a number of mental and 
physical health problems later in life.

Opponents have often claimed that marijuana legalisation would lead 
to more kids smoking the drug, with all the negative health 
consequences that would entail.

National surveys have shown that teen marijuana use rates are falling 
across the country. But there haven't been many numbers available 
specifically for states such as Colorado and Washington where it is 
legal. Federal data released late last year showed that teen use 
rates in Colorado and Washington were essentially flat, but they 
covered only 2014, the first year commercial marijuana was available 
in those states.

The latest data from Colorado includes 2015, reflecting two full 
years of the legal marijuana market's effect. These numbers give the 
strongest indication yet that fears of skyrocketing adolescent use 
have not materialised.

"These statistics clearly debunk the theory that making marijuana 
legal for adults will result in more teen use," Mason Tvert, director 
of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a 
statement. "Levels of teen use in Colorado have not increased since 
it ended marijuana prohibition, and they are lower than the national average."

Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a group opposing legalisation, has 
pointed out that the most recent federal surveys show that teen 
marijuana use rates in Colorado are among the highest in the country. 
But this latest survey, conducted by the state of Colorado, shows 
that teen use rates in that state are about average.

- - Washington Post
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom