Colorado now leads the nation in past-month, youth marijuana use — a dubious distinction the state has earned since voters sanctioned the drug for recreational use in 2012.
The findings are based on a report issued this week and based on 2013 and 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health data. The survey is sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Heatlh Services Administration.
The federal, household survey is arguably the nation’s most comprehensive and is conducted in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It examines the attitudes and drug-use behaviors of Americans 12 years old and older. Colorado is now atop the list for youth weed use after ranking third in the 2012-13 report and fourth in the 2011-12 study. Here’s a quick look at the Colorado-specific numbers for past-month marijuana use:
Ages 12-17: 12.56 percent
Ages 18-25: 31.24 percent
Ages 26 and older: 12.45 percent
It is important to note that the brain is developing until about age 25 and is especially vulnerable to addiction in that time. The American Society of Addiction Medicine recently revised its policy statement regarding marijuana. In addition to opposing the drug’s legalization, the organization recommended that states that have sanctioned the drug’s use discontinue sales of marijuana to anyone under the age of 25.
Kevin Sabet, a former White House drug policy advisor and president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) (a nonprofit organization Dr. Christian Thurstone serves as a medical advisor) gets straight to the point about Colorado’s youth pot use:
“Now that Coloradans have legalized and widely commercialized marijuana, their children use marijuana regularly — and more than children in any other state,” he said. “In Colorado especially, Big Marijuana has been allowed to run wild, and it appears kids there are paying the price more than in any other state in the country.”
The District of Columbia, which has joined other states in sanctioning marijuana also ranked high on the national listing: D.C. (4th), Oregon (5th) and Washington state (6th).
This is the latest of other troubling trends that have surfaced in marijuana states. A recent 2015 report found that the percentage of DUIs linked to marijuana use in Washington state has almost doubled since legalization, from 18.6 percent in 2012 to 33 percent in early 2015. That same report also found that 85 percent of drivers involved in fatal accidents in Washington tested positive for recent marijuana use. Similarly, marijuana poisonings in Colorado rose 147 percent from legalization in 2012 to 2014, and was up 52 percent in Washington during that same timeframe.
“Like Big Tobacco, marijuana companies put their bottom line before public health. It’s time we stop this new industry,” Sabet said.
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