If there has been any doubt that the legal marijuana policy in Colorado has been a failure, new numbers from US Health and Human Services seal the deal. The new 2013-2014 report of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that Colorado is now 1st in the nation for past month use of marijuana amongst 12 – 17 year olds. In the previous 2012-2013 report they were 3rd, in 2011-2012 they were fourth. What’s more, back in 2006, before there was legal retail marijuana, and before Colorado’s hyper-commercialized medical marijuana program, they were way back at number 14. Objectively, legalized commercialized marijuana has created more use of marijuana amongst Colorado youth. You can’t look at these numbers and argue otherwise.
In case you were wondering, other states in the top 6 for 2013-2014 were the District of Columbia (#4), Oregon (#5), and Washington (#6). These are all states that have also legalized retail marijuana. Other recent reports show troubling trends emerging in legalized states. A 2015 report from Washington State indicates the percentage of DUIs related to marijuana has almost doubled since that state legalized retail marijuana. That same report found that 85% of drivers in fatal car crashes tested positive for marijuana were testing positive for active THC, indicating driver impairment.
The other growing public health crisis in legalized states like Colorado and Washington is the rising numbers of marijuana poisonings, particularly amongst very young children. Those poisonings in Colorado have risen 147% since legalization. Basically, this simply wasn’t an issue that existed before marijuana was legalized, now it is a huge problem and sending countless children to the hospital. And should we be surprised when the marijuana industry makes and markets products like this?
Meanwhile, Maine’s bi-annual survey on drug and health issues, the Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey (MIYHS), also released it’s more recent survey numbers for 2015. The data shows that the rates of marijuana use amongst Maine high school and middle school youth remain high while significant reductions have been made in the areas of alcohol, tobacco, and prescription drug misuse.
The 2015 MIYHS data shows that Maine is still seeing 1 in 5 high school youth reporting using marijuana in the past 30 days. While that number didn’t go up from 2013, it has remained stalled since 2009 while youth use of all other substances has trended down. Clearly there are influences keeping those numbers high. One obvious and likely culprit is normalization as we see now 60% of high school youth believing there is no risk from youth regularly using marijuana. That is the highest that number has been since this survey has been conducted. Back in 2009 that number was at 40%.