Teen marijuana use in Colorado down post-legalization

Regular marijuana use among Colorado middle and high school students declined after the start of legal cannabis sales to adults in the state, new federal data show.

The latest results from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health align with data collected thus far by Colorado and, as such, seem to provide some added reassurance to state regulators seeking a key goal in this first-of-its kind effort: Keep marijuana out of the hands of kids and teens.

In 2015 to 2016, 9.08 percent of Colorado youths, aged 12 to 17, reported using marijuana in the month prior to being surveyed, according to the report. During the 2014-2015 period, 11.13 percent of youths that age reported using marijuana in the previous month. The survey said the decline in use is statistically significant, meaning that it likely really happened and isn’t the result of a mathematical blip.

Colorado voters legalized marijuana for recreational use by adults in 2012, but sales at stores did not begin until 2014.

In 2008 and 2009, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that 10.17 percent of kids in Colorado ages 12 to 17 said they used marijuana in the previous month. While the newer numbers also show a decline since that period, the overall trend is considered to be flat because it didn’t have enough statistical certainty.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health is published by a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It releases state data in two-year averages to account for small sample sizes in some states.

“I think the data reflects the trends we were seeing in the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey,” said Mark Bolton, marijuana adviser and senior deputy legal counsel to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. “I think we’re encouraged by the numbers.”

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