Study: Recre­ational le­gal­iza­tion had no im­pact on how many think it’s dan­ger­ous.

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By John In­gold

No change in Colorado teenagers’ mar­i­juana use af­ter recre­ational le­gal­iza­tion, a study finds.

Recre­ational mar­i­juana le­gal­iza­tion had no im­pact on how many Colorado teens use pot or on whether they think it is dan­ger­ous, but that could be be­cause years of med­i­cal mar­i­juana sales al­ready had brought about changes in those mea­sures, ac­cord­ing to a new study.

The study, posted this week on the web­site of the jour­nal JAMA Pe­di­atrics, looked at na­tional sur­vey data and con­cluded that the per­cent of teens from Colorado who said they had used mar­i­juana in the past month was sta­tis­ti­cally un­changed be­tween the pre-le­gal­iza­tion years of 2010 to 2012 and the post-le­gal­iza­tion years of 2013 to 2015.

Sim­i­larly, the study found that a shift in Colorado teens’ at­ti­tudes to­ward mar­i­juana’s risks — kids are less likely to­day to say they think us­ing mar­i­juana can be harm­ful to health — was not sta­tis­ti­cally dif­fer­ent from the na­tional trend.

That con­trasts with Wash­ing­ton state — which, along with Colorado, le­gal­ized recre­ational mar­i­juana use and sales in 2012. The study found kids in eighth and 10th grades in that state are more likely to use mar­i­juana since le­gal­iza­tion and have shifted even more than the na­tional trend to­ward think­ing mar­i­juana use doesn’t pose a great or mod­er­ate health risk.

“Our study didn’t par­tic­u­larly tell us why” the two states dif­fered, said Mag­dalena Cerdá, a re­searcher at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at Davis’ Vi­o­lence Preven­tion Re­search Pro­gram and the lead au­thor of the study.

But she and her co-au­thors have a the­ory. When Colorado vot­ers passed recre­ational le­gal­iza­tion, the state al­ready had a large med­i­cal mar­i­juana industry with nu­mer­ous dis­pen­saries. In Wash­ing­ton, the industry was less de­vel­oped — mean­ing its teens weren’t as ex­posed as those in Colorado to mar­i­juana ads and other com­mer­cial­iza­tion.

Cerdá’s study is the lat­est to try to make sense of le­gal­iza­tion’s im­pacts in Colorado.

To con­duct their re­search, Cerdá and her col­leagues dug into raw data from the Univer­sity of Michi­gan’s na­tional Mon­i­tor­ing the Fu­ture sur­vey.

A dif­fer­ent na­tional sur­vey, by the fed­eral govern­ment, this year es­ti­mated that the per­cent of kids ages 12-17 in Colorado who used mar­i­juana in the past month was the high­est in the coun­try. But that same sur­vey con­cluded the rate was flat since recre­ational mar­i­juana stores opened — some­thing echoed this year by the state Health De­part­ment’s Healthy Kids Colorado Sur­vey.

The per­cent­age of Colorado kids who re­ported us­ing mar­i­juana in the pre­vi­ous year ac­tu­ally

de­clined in the fed­eral govern­ment’s sur­vey this year.

The state’s long-term trends, though, point to­ward higher mar­i­juana use and lower per­cep­tions of risk for Colorado’s youth. A decade ago, the fed­eral govern­ment es­ti­mated that about 7.6 per­cent of kids ages 12 to 17 in Colorado used mar­i­juana in the prior month. In the sur­vey re­sults re­leased this year, that rate had grown to about 11.1 per­cent. Cerdá said it will take more study to de­ter­mine whether changes in the state’s mar­i­juana laws are the cause of that trend.

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