DENVER – A survey released Tuesday shows teen marijuana use is down nationally, leaving legalization proponents claiming victory.
The University of Michigan’s “Monitoring the Future” study, which tracks trends in substance use among students in middle and high schools, found that after five years of spikes among teens, marijuana use declined in 2014.
Colorado voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2012.
Use in the previous 12 months declined from 26 percent to 24 percent for students in eighth, 10th and 12th grades.
Current daily or near-daily marijuana use among teens – defined as use on 20 or more occasions in the last 30 days – also declined in 2014, to 5.8 percent, down from 6.5 percent in 2013.
The numbers are consistent with a survey released by Colorado health officials in August. Thirty-day marijuana use fell from 22 percent in 2011 to 20 percent in 2013, and lifetime use declined from 39 percent to 37 percent during the same two years, according to the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey released by the Department of Public Health and Environment.
Both surveys point out that perception by teens of the risks from marijuana use are declining, which alarms health officials and those who seek to protect kids from marijuana.
“The belief that regular marijuana use harms the user, however, continues to fall among youth, so changes in this belief do not seem to explain the change in use this year, as it has done over most of the life of the study,” said Lloyd Johnston, the University of Michigan study’s principal investigator.
The Marijuana Policy Project, a national organization dedicated to legalization, with an office in Denver, said the recent studies put to rest claims that legalization will result in more teens using marijuana. The group points out that while teens’ perception of risk dropped, usage also decreased, demonstrating no correlation between the two.
“There has been more public dialogue about marijuana over the past year than any 12-month period in history. States around the country are making marijuana legal for adults, establishing medical marijuana programs and decriminalizing marijuana possession, and the sky is not falling,” said Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project. “The debate is not resulting in more marijuana use among young people, but it is resulting in more sensible marijuana laws.
“The folks trying to keep marijuana illegal ... decry any public discussion about the relative safety of marijuana compared to alcohol and other substances,” Tvert said. “It appears young people are not as dumb as marijuana-prohibition supporters think they are. They are listening to both sides of the debate, watching the outcome and still recognizing that marijuana is only for adults.”
Several spokespeople for Smart Colorado, a group dedicated to keeping marijuana away from children and teens, did not immediately return calls for comment.
Smart Colorado has asked for tougher rules and regulations, especially for packaging and identifying marijuana-infused edibles.