A recent study of Colorado’s marijuana industry has revealed a fact that has been consistent in other states with legal cannabis markets: teen cannabis use is on the decline. Prohibitionists across the country had argued that legalizing adult-use cannabis would make the controversial drug more accessible and lead to increased drug use by the youth.
However, several studies have found that legalization has actually had the opposite effect, limiting youth access and reducing the number of young teens who consume cannabis. According to the recent Colorado study, 2021 saw an especially “dramatic” drop in cannabis use by teens. Dubbed the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, the biennial state poll was carried out by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).
The agency found that young teens were 35% less likely to consume cannabis in 2021 compared to previous years. This is reflective of several prior studies that have contradicted prohibitionists’ claims that legalizing cannabis would have an adverse effect on the country’s youth. However, we should note that the coronavirus pandemic may have played a part in reducing youth cannabis use by keeping potential users in socially isolated conditions.
Either way, it is clear that cannabis reform policies have made it at least a little harder for students to access cannabis. According to the CDPHE’s new study, slightly more than 13% of the surveyed teens said they had consumed cannabis within the past 30 days compared to 20% back in 2013 when the agency first launched the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey.
NORML deputy director Paul Armentano says the Colorado study is consistent with the growing body of literature showing that it is entirely possible to launch a controlled recreational cannabis market for adults aged 21 and older while limiting access to underage individuals.
The 2021 study also revealed that more othan 40% of students found it easy to access cannabis when they were so inclined compared to almost 55% in 2013, a year before the state legalized cannabis and launched a controlled market. Furthermore, more than 60% of the respondents associated cannabis use with “moderate or great risk of harm,” compared to 54% in 2013.
This signifies a shift in how teens see cannabis and its perceived risks and benefits. Prohibitionists had feared that legalizing cannabis would cause youngsters to view it as completely safe, but the study shows youth aren’t looking at cannabis use through rose-tinted glasses.
Senator John Hickenlooper, formerly the governor of Colorado, was not a fan of legalization because he believed that it would encourage drug abuse among the state’s youth. More than a decade later, however, he acknowledges that his fears were unfounded and cannabis youth use is actually declining. He also praises the state’s cannabis industry, stating that legislators “created a good framework” that has been copied by several other states.
The findings of this Colorado study provide further proof that it wasn’t a mistake to open legal marijuana markets in which entities such as Cannabis Strategic Ventures Inc. (OTC: NUGS) can operate.
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