CONTACT Colorado's marijuana troubles grow - Dr. Christian Thurstone

The Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area has released its fourth report on the impact of marijuana on the state of Colorado. Problems associated with the drug continue trending in the wrong direction.

The agency, also known as RMHIDTA, is part of a national network of federal offices charged with providing assistance to federal, state and tribal law enforcement agencies in areas determined to be critical drug-trafficking regions of the United States.

For comparison, the RMHIDTA report, titled “The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact, Vol. 4, September 2016,” breaks down data by three eras of the state’s marijuana history:

  • 2006-08: Medical marijuana pre-commercialization
  • 2009 to present: Medical marijuana commercialization and expansion
  • 2013 to present: Recreational marijuana
We invite you to review the report’s executive summary. We also have posted the entire report for your review. For previous reports and information, visit The Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area online.

From the 2016 report’s executive summary:

Youth Marijuana Use

Youth past-month use increased 20 percent in the two-year average (2013-14) since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana use, compared to the two-year average before legalization (2011-12).

The latest data available (2013-14) show Colorado ranked No. 1 in the nation for past-month marijuana use, up from No. 4 in 2011-12 and No. 14 in 2005-06.

Past-month use among Colorado youth in 2013-14 was 74 percent higher than the national past-month youth use rate. In 2011-12, the past-month youth use rate was 39 percent higher than the national past-month youth use average.

Among comments from school counselors:

Halls Reek of Pot After Lunch:
• “Many kids come back from lunch highly intoxicated from marijuana use. Halls reek of pot, so many kids are high that it is impossible to apprehend all but the most impaired.”

• “They go off campus and smoke during lunch with friends. They will run home with friends during lunch and smoke then.”

• “Students are often referred after lunch (open campus) after they have been riding around smoking marijuana with their friends.”

Just a Plant:
“In March of 2015 a fifth grade boy offered marijuana to another fifth grader on the playground. In October of 2014 a kindergarten girl described the pipe in her grandmother’s car and the store where you go to buy pipes. In May of 2015 a first grade girl reported that her mom smokes weed in the garage. ‘It’s not a drug, it’s just a plant.’”

Dad Allows Pot Smoking:
“We had reports of two students (brothers) appear to be high at school. Our officer assessed both of them and discovered that their father, who had a medical marijuana card, was having them both “smoke a bowl” before school. He thought it would make their school day easier.”

Parents High: “At our elementary school, we have noticed an increased number of parents showing up to school high. Kids have also brought [marijuana] to school to show their friends.”

Difficulty in Assessment: “For school personnel, it is more difficult to evaluate what substance a student is under the influence of. We can smell alcohol and smoked marijuana but the edibles and vapes are hard to detect.”

For more information about youth marijuana use rates in Colorado, please see this report about the recently released Healthy Kids Colorado Survey.

College-age Adult Marijuana Use

Marijuana use among college-age adults increased 17 percent in the two-year average (2013-14) since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana compared to the two-year average (2011-12) before legalization. Nationally, past-month marijuana use among college-age adults has increased 2 percent in the same time.

In 2013-14, marijuana use among Colorado’s college-age adults was 62 percent higher than the national average. In 2011-12, use among Colorado’s college-age adults was 42 percent higher than the national average.

Colorado’s college-age adults rank No. 1 in the nation for past-month marijuana use, up from No. 3 in 2011-12 and from No. 8 in 2005-06.

Impaired Driving

Marijuana-related traffic deaths jumped from 71 people in 2013 to 115 people in 2015 — an increase of 62 percent.

Marijuana-related traffic deaths have increased 48 percent in the three-year average (2013-15) since Colorado sanctioned recreational marijuana compared to the three-year average (2010- 2012) before the drug was sanctioned.

20-Year-Old Colorado Man Kills 8-Year-Old Girl While Driving High A former star athlete at Mead High School accused of fatally running over an 8-year-old Longmont girl on her bike told police he thought he’d hit the curb — until he saw the girl’s stepfather waving at him, according to an arrest affidavit released July 29, 2016.

Father Blames Teenage “Son’s Death in Part on Legalized Pot”: A 17-year-old, driving while high on marijuana when his car struck and killed another teenage boy, was sentenced to two years in youth corrections. The incident occurred in November of 2014, the teenager was sentenced in April of 2016. Both the father of the victim and the 17th Judicial District Attorney blamed marijuana for what happened.

Middle School Counselor Killed by High Driver as She Helped Fellow Motorist: A counselor at Wolf Point Middle School, Montana, was hit by a car and killed by an impaired driver in Colorado as she stopped to help another driver.

Teen Driver Charged With Vehicular Homicide and DUI in Boulder, Colorado Crash: A 17-year-old accused of driving into a stopped car and killing two people in May of 2016 was charged with four counts of vehicular homicide, as Boulder prosecutors alleged for the first time that the teen was under the influence of marijuana at the time of the crash.

DrThurstone has reported about previous reports produced by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. You can find that information here.

About Christine Tatum

Christine Tatum is a veteran journalist whose communications and market intel firm, Media Salad, Inc., helps companies and nonprofit organizations win business and stay ahead of their competitors. Her professional stops include the Chicago Tribune, The Denver Post, the (Arlington Heights, Ill.) Daily Herald and the (Greensboro, N.C.) News & Record. Her work also has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, and New York Times.

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