If this were a segment of The Daily Show, this article might begin with a montage of Republican lawmakers decrying the “reckless, irresponsible” message marijuana legalization sends to youth. In legislative chambers across the U.S., opponents of marijuana reform, when all else fails, fall back on the argument that legal weed will surely cause more young people to consume cannabis. Their case rests on a simple—and simplistic—assumption: make something legal, safer, better-regulated, and more people will do it. But a new survey of teen marijuana use in Colorado is beginning to put the lie to that assumption.
New Survey: 81 Percent of Colorado Teens Don’t Consume Cannabis
On Tuesday, public health researchers in Colorado released a report detailing the results of a youth marijuana education and prevention campaign called High Costs. Researchers measured the efficacy of that campaign with a survey. The survey reached more than 55,000 teen respondents, including 500 in the City of Denver. And according to that survey, teen marijuana consumption isn’t just dropping in Colorado. It’s also falling below the national average for the first time.
The report’s “respondent snapshot” reveals that 59 percent of Colorado teens have never consumed cannabis. An additional 22 percent of teens have only consumed cannabis once or twice ever. Another 8 percent consume cannabis once a month or less. In other words, just 10 percent of Colorado teens use cannabis more than once a month. So 81 percent of Colorado teens don’t consume cannabis with any regularity, have only tried it or have never tried it at all. The national average for teen’s who don’t use cannabis hovers around four out of every five. Colorado teens just barely surpassed that mark.
High Costs Cannabis Awareness Program Is Helping Reduce Underage Use
Colorado’s cannabis laws earmark a portion of marijuana tax revenue for drug awareness and outreach programs for young people. The City of Denver, for example, has spent millions on its High Costs campaign. And based on its new report, High Costs says it’s money well spent. In addition to surveying teens on their cannabis consumption habits, High Costs also polled respondents about their familiarity with High Costs’ campaign materials. 78 percent of Denver teens reported that they were familiar with the campaign. And of those, 75 percent said High Costs’ messaging discouraged them from using cannabis.
High Costs is also the organization behind the online game show, Weeded Out. Weeded Out is the country’s first marijuana education game show, and it was the focal point of High Costs’ 2018 campaign. Of the teens who watched the game show, 87 percent reported discussing it with friends and family. In short, High Costs is getting its message out there. And the vast majority of teens who are aware of it find its content clear, educational, trustworthy and likable.
And for the rest of the nation, the effectiveness of Denver’s youth awareness and prevention campaign sends an important message. It shows that it is entirely possible for legal-weed states to safeguard young people and teens from the health and legal risks of underage cannabis consumption. And further, it shows that smart, well-funded programs can do way more to reduce teen cannabis consumption than prohibition and harsh criminalization.