Report: Marijuana use is down for high school students, up for others

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LAKEWOOD, Colo. —  The Colorado Department of Public Safety on Tuesday released “Marijuana Legalization in Colorado: Early Findings,” its first official report evaluating the impact of the state’s historic legalization of marijuana on public safety, public health and Colorado’s kids.

The report is the first of its kind.

“This report is a two-year snapshot of the impact of marijuana legalization on Colorado’s kids, families and communities,” said Stan Hilkey, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Safety.

The CDPS does add caution to its findings.

“The lack of historical, pre-commercialization data on marijuana, the decreasing social stigma surrounding marijuana use, and enforcement challenges inherent to the implementation of Colorado’s new and complex marijuana laws combine to make it difficult to translate these early findings into definitive outcomes,” the report said.

“While we still can’t draw any long-term conclusions, today Colorado continues to make history by establishing an objective, data-backed baseline against which all future assessments of marijuana legalization, both in Colorado and around the world, will be weighed.”

The study’s key findings:

  • Among those 18-25 years old, marijuana usage has increased from 21 percent in 2006 to 31 percent in 2014.
  • Among those 26 or older, marijuana usage has increased from 5 percent in 2006 to 12 percent in 2014.
  • 33 percent of marijuana users who have reported marijuana use in the past 30 days have used daily.
  • Marijuana-related arrests have decreased by 46 percent between 2012 and 2014, while possession arrests were cut in half and sales arrests have decreased by 24 percent.
  • The trend for high school students ever using marijuana has declined from 42.4 percent in 2005 to 36.9 percent in 2013. The percentage of high school students currently using marijuana has decreased from 22.7 percent to 19.7 percent over the same period. Youth use in Colorado remains above the national average.
  • Marijuana-related hospitalizations have increased from a rate of 803 per 100,000 pre-commercialization to 2,413 per 100,000 post-commercialization.
  • The period of retail commercialization showed a significant increase in emergency department visits, from 739 per 100,000 (2010–2013) to 956 per 100,000 emergency department visits (2014–June 2015).
  • The prevalence of marijuana as the impairing substance among DUIs has increased from 12 percent in 2014 to 15% in 2014, although the total number of marijuana-related DUIDs decreased slightly.
  • In the 2014-15 school year, school-based discipline for drugs accounted for 41 percent of all expulsions, 31 percent of all law enforcement referrals, and 6 percent of all suspensions in Colorado.