Colorado Adult Marijuana Use Now Almost Double the National Average

So there was some pretty big, but sadly unsurprising news coming out of Colorado yesterday.  It was reported that a new statewide survey funded by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment found that 13.6% of adults in Colorado are regular users of marijuana.  This is almost double the national rate of 7.4%.  Denver, which is home to the most number of marijuana stores, leads the state with 18.5% of adults as current users.  Additionally, state estimates of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicates that adult use has risen by almost 20% since 2012.  Perhaps equally, if not more shocking, 1 in 5 marijuana users reported driving after using the drug.

Let’s put that last statistic into perspective.  According to this website, there are 2,975,337 licensed drivers in the state of Colorado.  Using the survey findings, and round numbers, we have about 400,000 of those licensed, driving adults who are regular marijuana users.  If 1 in 5 of those are driving after using, then you have over 80,000 motorists who are hitting the road after using marijuana.  Unless you are driving a tank on the roads of Colorado, that statistic should be absolutely frightening.

Other highlights of the survey included:

  • 1 in 3 users are daily users.
  • Black adults in Colorado are using at almost 50% higher than the state average for adults; Hispanics have the lowest use rates.
  • Low income Colorado adults are using at higher rates than the state average
  • Almost a third of 18-24 year olds are using marijuana (remember, it is illegal for 18-20 year olds to use marijuana in Colorado)

Experts from Colorado remark that this new data provides a stark commentary on the effect legalization has had in that state.  “Marijuana legalization and commercialization is a failed policy and this new report details the impact on many of our populations already impacted by alcohol and tobacco use,” said Bob Doyle, Chair of Colorado SAM and a public health professional with more than 20 years of experience in tobacco prevention.

Indeed, here in Maine many arguments have been made for legalization as a policy that would somehow help our minority and vulnerable populations.  Yet this new data from Colorado shows the exact opposite result.  It is clear that the industry is targeting minority, young adult, and low income populations, just as the tobacco and alcohol industries have done (and continue to do).

It’s Big Tobacco 2.0 in action.

If you want to hear more discussion of this, be sure to tune into the George Hale Ric Tyler Show tomorrow (Thursday) morning at 6:32 AM where I will be a guest.  If you are reading this article after the fact, you can go to the website and listen to the podcast.

Scott M. Gagnon, MPP, PS-C

About Scott M. Gagnon, MPP, PS-C

Scott M. Gagnon, MPP, PS-C is a Certified Prevention Specialist and is the Director of Operations at AdCare Educational Institute of Maine, Inc. He currently serves on the Maine Substance Abuse Services Commission as well as the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, Center for Substance Abuse Prevention National Advisory Council. Scott volunteers as the Chair of the marijuana policy education and advocacy group, Smart Approaches to Marijuana Maine and is the current Board President of the Maine Council on Problem Gambling. Scott also serves as a Co-chair of the Prevention & Harm Reduction task force of the Maine Opiate Collaborative, the effort convened by U.S. Attorney Thomas E Delahanty, II to address Maine's growing opiate and addiction crisis. Scott is the recipient of the 2015 Maine Public Health Association's Ruth S. Shaper Memorial Award and 2015 Healthy Androscoggin Will Bartlett Award and is also the 2013 recipient of the Maine Alliance to Prevent Substance Abuse Prevention Award.