The Denver Post article cites the Centers for Disease Control's Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) to indicate that “marijuana use among teens nationwide also remained flat…” They failed to mention that Oregon and Washington, states with legalized marijuana, and Minnesota did not participate in the 2015 YRBS. There were also ten states, including Colorado, with unweighted results because their state survey participation rate did not meet the 60 percent participation standard set by YRBS.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an annual survey by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA):
- When recreational marijuana was legalized in Colorado, youth ages 12 – 17 past month marijuana use increased 20 percent comparing the two-year average just prior to legalization (2011/2012) to the two-year average when legalized (2013/2014).
- The 2013/2014 survey results show Colorado youth ranked No. 1 in the nation for past month marijuana use, up from No. 4 in 2011/2012.
- Colorado youth past month marijuana use for 2013/2014 was 74 percent higher than the national average (12.56 percent vs. 7.22 percent).
- There was a 40 percent increase in drug-related suspensions and expulsions in Colorado from school year 2008/2009 to 2013/2014
- There was a 20 percent increase in the percent of 12 to 17 year-old probationers testing positive for marijuana since marijuana was legalized for recreational purposes.
- In June 2015, 95 school resource officers (SROs) completed a survey concerning marijuana at schools. The majority were assigned to high schools with an average tenure of six years as an SRO. They were asked for their professional opinion on the following question:
- Since the legalization of recreational marijuana, what impact has there been on marijuana-related incidents at your school?
- 90 percent reported an increase in incidents
- 9 percent reported no change in incidents
- 1 percent reported a slight decrease in incidents
If this is not enough data to convince you that it has indeed affected adolescents, according to the 2015 Health Kids Colorado Survey (the survey cited in The Denver Post’s article), one out of every 3 Denver high school juniors and seniors surveyed are marijuana users (a 20 percent increase from 2013 to 2015). There has also been a significant increase in the number of children and youth that are being seen in emergency rooms because of accidental ingestion of dangerous marijuana edibles that look like safe, undrugged candies and baked goods.
As advocates for substance abuse prevention from throughout the state, it is our opinion that if the Idaho Statesman wishes to publish information that could potentially impact public health, they should diligently study the issue and present all of the relevant facts rather than reprint a slanted story with a few statistics from one limited survey. When children’s lives are affected by what is printed in the local newspaper, that paper must be responsible purveyors of the truth.
Community Coalitions of Idaho, a substance abuse prevention coalition representing 28 communities statewide
Mission: Support community coalitions efforts to prevent substance abuse in Idaho
Vision: Safe and healthy Idaho communities free of substance abuse