Anonymous surveys given to about 40,000 students before and after legalization showed ‘no significant change’ in usage by children under 18.
Children are not smoking more Colorado marijuana since the drug became legal – but their older siblings and parents certainly are, according to a long-awaited report giving the most comprehensive data yet on the effects of the state’s 2012 recreational marijuana law.
The state released a report on Monday detailing changes in everything from pot arrests to tax collections to calls to Poison Control. Surveys given to middle-schoolers and high-schoolers indicate that youth marijuana use did not rise significantly in the years after the 2012 vote.
Anonymous surveys given to about 40,000 Colorado students before and after legalization showed “no significant change” in marijuana use by children under 18 in the preceding 30 days.
Among high school students, use went from about 23% in 2005 to about 20% in 2014. Similarly, there was no significant change in use by children younger than 13 in recent years.
But Colorado youth were much more likely, both before and after legalization, to use marijuana than children in other states, according to a national survey.
About 13% of Colorado minors aged 12-17 in 2014 had used marijuana in the last 30 days, the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health said. That compared with about 7% of minors the same ages nationwide.
Youth marijuana arrests in Colorado rose 5% between 2012 and 2014, from 3,235 to 3,400. Worse, the report cited a huge uptick in pot arrests in schools, which rose by 34% between 2012 and 2014.
While use of the drug did not increase significantly among children, it did jump among adults.
Relying on data from the national drug use survey, Colorado reported that nearly a third of Coloradans aged 18-25 in 2014 had used pot in the last 30 days, a rise of about 5% from the year before recreational pot was legalized.
The survey showed a similar spike in adults over 26. Past 30-day marijuana use went from 7.6% in 2012 to 12.4% in 2014.
The report comes three years after lawmakers ordered the state department of public safety to start tracking law enforcement activity related to pot. A major argument of pro-legalization activists was that legal pot would result in fewer arrests, allowing police to focus on what some consider more serious crimes.
The numbers showed a marked drop in arrests, but that legalization has not solved the racial disparities in enforcement that drug-policy reformers had hoped to end. Colorado police departments have struggled to standardize their marijuana data-collection systems, making more granular conclusions problematic.