In 2012, Colorado legalized marijuana and parents were outraged. Why the reefer madness? Because in their minds, legalizing that big bad stinkweed would make it even easier for little Timmy to get his hands on it. Well, as it turns out, they were wrong.
According to a new survey from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, there has been very little change in drug use amongst Colorado teenagers since the legalization of marijuana in 2012. In fact, the rate is actually slightly lower.
In 2009 (before legalization), 25 percent of Colorado youths used marijuana. In 2015, the rate went down to 21 percent ”” which is also slightly lower than the national average. It looks like legalizing that big bad bud isn't hurting anyone.
Since the legalization, policymakers and advocates from both sides have been closely monitoring the numbers. Researchers generally agree that marijuana usage at a young age can lead to dependency on the drug, and that young marijuana users are at a higher risk of mental and health problems including depression, developing a psychosis and chronic bronchitis.
What we are seeing is that the legalization of marijuana is not leading more teenagers to smoke it.
"These statistics clearly debunk the theory that making marijuana legal for adults will result in more teen use," Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement.
"Levels of teen use in Colorado have not increased since it ended marijuana prohibition, and they are lower than the national average. Elected officials and voters in states that are considering similar proposals should be wary of claims that it will hurt teens."
While the numbers show the decline of teenage pot usage, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (a group opposing legalization) is saying the exact opposite. SAM insists that the most recent federal survey proves that marijuana usage rates in Colorado are some of the highest in the country. So, why are we getting conflicting information?
It's simple. The first survey (which shows the decline in pot usage) polled 17,000 teenagers, while the federal survey polled fewer than 400 teenagers. You can decide for yourself which one you believe.
The reality is this: Whether marijuana is legal or illegal, it is pretty widely available. In fact, roughly 80 percent of 12th graders say that they can get their hands on pot at any given time. So, if they want to smoke, they are going to smoke, and legalizing it isn't making a difference.