New Data Shows Colorado Youth Marijuana Use on the Rise Since Legalization

New Data Shows Colorado Youth Marijuana Use on the Rise Since Legalization

June 20, 2016


(Alexandria, VA) – A new state-funded report out of Colorado today found that marijuana use among high school students is on the rise in Colorado since legalization, while youth cigarette use has declined. This rise is a result of particularly pronounced increases among juniors and seniors, whose last-month pot use rose from 22.1 to 26.3 percent (juniors) and from 24.3 to 27.8 percent (seniors).


The Healthy Kids Colorado Survey (HKCS) found that although marijuana use rose among high school students, cigarette use fell. Since 2013, monthly cigarette consumption among that demographic declined by just over two percentage points, from 10.7 to 8.6 percent, while monthly pot use rose almost as many percentage points in the same timeframe — from 19.7 to 21.2 percent — reversing a four-year decline that ended after Colorado legalized the drug in late 2012.


While the HKCS also found Colorado high school youth rates were on par with national rates from the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavioral Study (YRBS), a more comprehensive National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that Colorado ranks first in the nation for marijuana use by 12-17 year-olds, well above the national average:



“A powerful marijuana industry lobby has emerged that sued Colorado to stop restrictions on advertising to protect children, and is now pushing back against municipal regulations to keep pot stores away from schools and day care facilities in other states,” said Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM). “Now that Colorado has legalized and widely commercialized marijuana, unfortunately their children use marijuana more than children in any other state.”


Jo McGuire, co-chair of SAM’s Colorado affiliate and president & CEO of 5 Minutes of Courage, a Colorado advocacy group for drug-free communities, workplaces, and youth, also commented, “It’s not surprising that youth use has increased in our state since legalization.  We have made pot use more socially acceptable for kids without setting up any serious, organized educational campaign on the harms of getting high.  This will really hurt our state in the long run.”


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About SAM
Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) is a nonpartisan, non-profit alliance of physicians, policy makers, prevention workers, treatment and recovery professionals, scientists, and other concerned citizens who oppose marijuana legalization and want health and scientific evidence to guide marijuana policies. Learn more at