Now That It’s Legal, Colorado Teens Are Smoking Less Weed

They're even below the national average

Getty Images

There’s a common myth about teenagers drinking in France. Because many French young people are allowed moderate amounts of wine at dinner, the story goes, they learn that booze isn’t such a big deal and thus drink more moderately. As it turns out, France has a serious problem with young binge drinkers, so that cute theory is out the window.


But in Colorado, where weed has been legal for a few years now, it turns out that pot use among teens has been declining. Could that indicate that legalization leads to more responsible use?

The data comes from a recent survey of 17,000 adolescents by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The most striking facts are these: In 2009, when pot was still a jailable offense, 25 percent of teens there admitted to toking in the last 30 days. In 2015, that number dropped four points, to 21 percent. Additionally, Colorado teens are smoking less than the national average for their age group.

The working theory by opponents has long been that legalization would lead to a nonstop teen pot party. These decreases, though modest, are well worth noting. "These statistics clearly debunk the theory that making marijuana legal for adults will result in more teen use," said Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, in a statement.

The thing is, marijuana in Colorado is still illegal for those under 21, so it may be that legalization simply isn’t a huge a factor for teens there. On a national level, 80 percent of high school seniors say that it’s easy to get their hands on weed; it may be that giving legal access to grown-ups barely registers with Colorado teenagers.

In general, the Colorado trend seems to follow a striking national pattern; young people seem to have downshifted much of their naughty behavior. A recent study of 16,000 teens nationwide from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that they are drinking less, doing less drugs, and having less sex than two years prior.

"I think you can call this the cautious generation," Bill Albert, a spokesman for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, told the Los Angeles Times.

So while Colorado is clearly quite proud of their youths, and perhaps with good reason, the new stats may just be part of a nationwide trend: our teens are mellowing out.

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