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POLITICS: PennAve

So far, Colorado's teens are actually using marijuana less

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Politics,Betsy Woodruff,Colorado,Campaigns,PennAve,Marijuana,Drug Legalization,War on Drugs,Law

Legalized pot hasn't led to a surge in youth use in Colorado so far. Quite the opposite.

According to the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment, marijuana use among Colorado teens has gone down slightly since the state legalized recreational cannabis use in 2012.

If the trend holds, it would undermine a key argument of anti-legalization forces in other states, who often stress the potential for increased marijuana use by teens.

The results are also interesting because the Colorado health department did not emphasize them. In an Aug. 7 release, officials stressed another finding from the survey that showed teens in the Centennial State perceive marijuana as less risky than they did a few years ago.

The release says the 2013 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey’s preliminary results show that 54 percent of teens in the state think pot is risky, down from 58 percent in 2011. Officials cite that results to argue for the importance of a new campaign encouraging teens to lay off the drug.

"If we want Colorado to be the healthiest state in the nation, then we need to make sure our youngest citizens understand the risks of using potentially harmful substances," said health department executive director Larry Wolk.

While the health department might be worried, others are celebrating the new data.

“Even if it’s not statistically significant, Colorado is bucking the nationwide trend,” said Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “You couldn’t argue that marijuana use is somehow worse among teens in Colorado than other states or the nation as a whole.”

Another data point that should hearten Colorado’s concerned parents, via the Phoenix New Times: National teen marijuana consumption has gone up a few points in the previous years; so Colorado’s high schoolers don’t seem to have hiked up their pot consumption since it became legal. Thus, legal-weed opponents seeking data that indicates legalization hurts teens may have to look elsewhere.

While these results might surprise some, they haven’t really raised eyebrows in Colorado’s cannabis business community. Kayvan Khalatbari, a businessman who co-founded the state’s second-oldest marijuana dispensary, said people shouldn’t have expected teen weed consumption to go up after legalization.

“Cannabis, now that it’s legal, kind of is an old person’s drug,” he said. “It’s something that kids are seeing adults use all over the place. It just doesn’t seem as cool to kids anymore.”

Full survey results will come out this fall.

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