Pubdate: Thu, 23 Jun 2016
Source: Denver Post (CO)
Copyright: 2016 The Denver Post Corp


The biggest single risk in legalizing marijuana in 2012 - with no 
other issue even close - was the effect it might have on adolescents.

Would usage skyrocket among this group? Teens who use drugs are more 
likely than adults to end up dependent on them and to suffer other 
long-term consequences, such as academic failure. If it can be shown 
for sure that legalization pushes more kids into pot use, most 
arguments on behalf of legal pot would be overwhelmed.

That's why the recent data from the state's Healthy Kids Colorado 
Survey, which shows marijuana use among high school students has not 
increased and is roughly the same as the national average, is so 
heartening. Even the most ardent opponents of legalization ought to 
pleased, since the prospect of repealing Amendment 64 in the near 
future is approximately zero. We're going to be living with the 
consequences of legalization for the time being, both good and bad.

The latest survey results are important in part because they reflect 
drug and alcohol consumption during 2015, three years after 
legalization and during the second year when pot was being sold in 
retail outlets. Moreover, nearly 16,000 high school students were 
surveyed, a far larger group than other recent surveys.

And yet the report, prepared by several state agencies, is 
unequivocal in its major conclusion regarding marijuana: "Four out of 
five Colorado high school students have not used marijuana in the 
last 30 days, a rate that remains relatively unchanged since 2013." 
In addition, "Colorado does not significantly differ from the 
national average in lifetime or current marijuana use."

And please note that the previous state survey of this type, two 
years ago, showed a very slight drop in the percentage of students 
reporting they'd ever tried marijuana compared to 2011. In other 
words, in the years since the Obama administration opened the door to 
medical marijuana dispensaries in states like Colorado by taking a 
hands-off approach to enforcement, marijuana use among high schools 
students here has basically been flat. That's a test drive of 
significant length, and suggests Colorado's groundbreaking experiment 
is not driving up youthful usage.

Maybe marijuana was so easily acquired before legalization that 
Amendment 64 has made little difference for teens. As The Washington 
Post's Christopher Ingraham points out, "Nationally, roughly 80 
percent of 12th-graders say that pot is easy to get. The kids who 
want to smoke weed are probably already doing so."

In Colorado, roughly 56 percent of the surveyed high school students 
(not just 12th-graders) said that marijuana was "easy" or "sort of 
easy" to get.

Interestingly, marijuana is not the intoxicant of choice among 
Colorado teens. "Compared to other substances, students in Colorado 
are most likely to drink alcohol," the survey reports.

Some things apparently never change.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom