In June, 2016, the 2015 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey (HKCS) was released with the media claiming that past month marijuana use by Colorado teens had not increased since pot had been legalized and use was within line with the national average.
However, Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area asks, “Is the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey ‘Good News’ and is Colorado teen marijuana use ‘flat?’ The reader can examine the facts and data to make an informed decision. What is clear is that there is no overall pattern in the HKCS data: thus it is best to refrain from jumping to conclusions on such an important issue. The HKCS results are highly variable between class years and regions from major increases to major decreases.
Examples of variables include:
• There was a 57.5 percent increase in use among one region’s freshmen while a 53.4 percent decrease in another.
• In one region there was a 72.0 percent increase in high school sophomore use but, in another, a 38.9 percent decrease.
• One region for juniors shows a 49.8 percent increase and another, 33.1 percent decrease.
• In one region, high school seniors had a 90.0 percent increase and in another a 34.3 percent decrease.
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).
School resource officers and counselors offer a different perspective than the HKCS survey.
• In a 2015 survey of 95 school resource officers, 90 percent responded that, since marijuana legalization, they have seen an increase in marijuana-related incidents in their schools.
• In the same survey, when asked where the students are getting their marijuana, 18 percent said from the black market and 81 percent cited friends who get it legally, parents, or marijuana businesses.
• In a similar survey of 188 school counselors, 69 percent responded that, since marijuana legalization, they have seen an increase in marijuana-related incidents in their school.
• In the same survey, when asked where the students are getting their marijuana, 18 percent said the black market while 82 percent cited friends who get it legally, family members, or marijuana businesses.