DENVER – Teen marijuana use has not increased since the state legalized the drug, according to state health officials.
But anti-marijuana groups remain concerned that the normalization of the drug is misleading kids across the state.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on Monday released its “Healthy Kids Colorado Survey,” a biannual project, which revealed that 4 out of 5 high school students continue to say they don’t use marijuana, even occasionally.
The survey represents a holding trend, as a report from 2014 showed that teen marijuana use had slightly decreased since legalization.
The news was hailed as progress to the marijuana legalization world, which predicted in 2012 that the drug would become boring to teens if legalized.
“These statistics clearly debunk the theory that making marijuana legal for adults will result in more teen use,” said Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project and a co-director the 2012 legalization effort.
Legalization proponents underscored that rates of current and lifetime marijuana use among Colorado teens is lower than the national average.
About 21 percent of high school students in Colorado reported using marijuana within the past 30 days in 2015, down slightly from 22 percent in 2011, the year before voters backed legalization.
Nationally, about 22 percent of teens used marijuana in the last 30 days, according to the 2015 High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey, released earlier this month by federal officials.
The 21 percent 30-day use in Colorado represents a drop of about 4 points since 2009, when medical marijuana stores proliferated across the state.
A separate report, however, released in December by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, showed that Colorado ranks first in the nation for past-month marijuana use by kids 12-17 years old.
The rate of lifetime use among teens in Colorado dropped from 43 percent in 2009 to 38 percent in 2015. Nationally, about 39 percent of teens have used marijuana during their life.
The survey included approximately 17,000 randomly selected students from 157 randomly selected middle and high schools in Colorado.
State and local health officials hope that the survey highlights that teens are less likely to engage in risky behaviors if they have a trusted adult in their lives.
The La Plata County Celebrating Healthy Communities Coalition is using survey results to encourage parents to do their part to limit teen drug use. The coalition recommends clear family rules, open communication, sharing facts and talking through scenarios.
“The healthy kids survey helped us reach out to parents to show their influence matters in keeping kids healthy and away from risky behaviors,” said Lauren Patterson, spokeswoman for the La Plata County coalition.
Anti-marijuana groups, though, are concerned with the recent survey, pointing out that fewer Colorado high school students view regular marijuana use as risky behavior, which they believe is a dangerous consequence of legalization.
Only 48 percent of high school students surveyed saw marijuana use as risky in 2015, compared to 54 percent two years earlier.
“Youth marijuana use can have lifelong implications,” said Diane Carlson, a co-founder of Smart Colorado. “And yet too few Colorado kids are aware of just how harmful and risky today’s high-potency pot can be.
“Colorado voters were promised marijuana would be kept out of the hands of Colorado kids. And yet, after three-and-a-half years of commercialized recreational marijuana and after over six years of commercialized medical marijuana, that has yet to happen.”