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Federal data: Teen pot use is — surprise? — down in Colorado

Author: Dan Njegomir - December 11, 2017 - Updated: December 11, 2017

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(iStock image / KatarzynaBialasiewicz)

Longtime advocates of Colorado’s bold step into legal recreational marijuana back in 2012 are sure to feel vindicated by new federal data indicating teen pot use is down markedly in the state. Indeed, legalization-movement pitch man Mason Tvert was practically on the media’s doorstep with the news this afternoon:

The federal government published survey data Monday that shows the rate of current marijuana use among Colorado teens decreased significantly last year and is now lower than it was prior to the state’s legalization of marijuana for adult use.

The rate of past-month marijuana use by individuals ages 12-17 dropped nearly 20% from 11.13% in 2014-2015 to 9.08% in 2015-2016, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) performed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). It is now lower than it was in 2011-2012 (10.47%) and 2012-2013 (11.16%). Marijuana became legal for adults 21 and older in December 2012, and legal adult marijuana sales began in January 2014.

Here’s a link to the federal website with the hard data Tvert references — for you numbers crunchers and fact checkers.

And here’s a comparison of Colorado with other states in light of the new data, compiled by the pro-pot legalization BSC Group and its Marijuana Moment website:

An antidote to the naysayers? Arguably, though if we’ve learned anything about statistics, it’s that there always appear to be more statistics that can and will be used to counter them. The latest numbers, for example, seem to contrast with some of the data in a previous iteration of National Survey on Drug Use and Health. As we noted earlier this year, legalization foes wrote Gov. John Hickenlooper in April, contending among other things:

The only representative sample of teens ever conducted in Colorado, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), shows that Colorado now leads the nation among 12 to 17-year-olds in (A) last-year marijuana use, (B) last-month marijuana use, and (C) the percentage of people who try marijuana for the first time during that period (“first use”).

Meaning, we’ll probably be hearing from the other side this time around, too. Stay tuned.

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir is the opinion editor for Colorado Politics. A longtime journalist and more-than-25-year veteran of the Colorado political scene, Njegomir has been an award-winning newspaper reporter, an editorial page editor, a senior legislative staffer at the State Capitol and a political consultant.