CO high school students aren't using more pot after legalization

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If marijuana is legal, will kids use it more often?

Preliminary data from Colorado — which legalized marijuana in late 2012 — suggests the answer may be no. A survey by the Colorado Department of Health and Environment found the percentage of high school students who reported using marijuana in the previous month remained virtually unchanged during the first full year after the state legalized recreational pot.


The percentage of high schoolers who used cannabis within the last 30 days dropped slightly from 22 percent in 2011 to 20 percent in 2013, the survey showed. However, the change was statistically insignificant since the survey carried a margin of error of at least two percentage points, health officials said. Here's how teen marijuana use in Colorado compares to the national average (click each year to see the difference).

High school marijuana use | Create Infographics

The figures show self-reported marijuana consumption among teens hasn't skyrocketed (or plummeted) since Colorado legalized the drug for adult use. It's pretty much remained the same.


The percentage of high school students who believe marijuana is harmful dropped slightly, from 58 percent in 2011 to 54 percent in 2013, meaning that teens were less fearful of the drug.

Determining the impact of legalization on teen use, however, may take several more years. While marijuana was legal in 2013, Colorado didn't allow legal retail sales of marijuana in stores until January 1, 2014.


Ted Hesson was formerly the immigration editor at Fusion, covering the issue from Washington, D.C. He also writes about drug laws and (occasionally) baseball. On the side: guitars, urban biking, and fiction.

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