Pot Use Teenagers

In an April 20, 2005 file photo, a University of Colorado freshman, who did not want to be identified, joins a crowd smoking marijuana during a “420” gathering at Farrand Field at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colo. People who started using marijuana persistently before age 18 risk losing some of their IQ by the time they’re 38, a long-running study says. In contrast, even long-term chronic users who started after age 18 showed no such effect, suggesting the drug holds some particular t

A recent study suggested that teens who routinely smoke marijuana are at risk for a long-term drop in their IQ that marijuana users 18 and older do not experience. The researchers were quick to point out that the findings are not definitive, but do line up with other signs that marijuana use can harm a young, developing brain.

Fortunately in Colorado, it appears that teen marijuana use is in decline while national use has gone up during the same period, according to data from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBS) report compiled by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The drop in use by Colorado teens, a drop below the national average, coincides with the same period that the medical marijuana industry developed in the state, between 2009 and 2011.

“To put it simply, teen marijuana usage has been going down in Colorado since the passage of our comprehensive medical marijuana regulatory model,” Mike Elliott, executive director of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group, told The Huffington Post. “This is exactly the opposite of what opponents of medical marijuana predicted. Colorado’s teen marijuana usage rate is going down because this regulatory model has taken control away from the black market and given it back to our school districts, local and state governments, and the citizens of Colorado.”

The CDC report shows:

But the CDC report didn’t just measure youth usage, it also measured drug availability on Colorado school grounds. The report shows:

  • Availability of drugs on school grounds in Colorado went down 5 percentfrom 2009 (22.7 percent) to 2011 (17.2 percent).
  • Nationally, illegal drugs offered, sold or given on school property was up 3.1 percent from 2009 (22.7 percent) to 2011 (25.6 percent).
  • Availability of illegal drugs on school grounds in Colorado is below the national average by 8.4 percent — 17.2 percent in Colorado, 25.6 percent in the U.S.

Elliott and other marijuana advocate groups including the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol — the organization behind Colorado’s Amendment 64 which seeks to legalize marijuana for adults age 21 and over and regulate it in way that is similar to the regulation of alcohol — point to the data as sign that regulation is helping reduce marijuana use amongst minors.