COLORADO – Opponents of marijuana legalization are pointing to a recent study from the state health department to call for stricter enforcement of regulations in order to lower underage marijuana use.
The annual Monitoring Health Concerns Related to Marijuana report by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment found a similar percentage of teenagers in Colorado (19.4 percent) reported using marijuana in the past 30 days as the national average of 19.8 percent. However, adolescents here are increasingly choosing “dabs” and edibles to get high as opposed to smoking marijuana.
The study authors also found that parents need to do a better job of keeping their marijuana away from their kids. They estimate around 23,000 households in Colorado aren’t properly storing marijuana. Also, the number of reports made to the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center for unintentional exposure of marijuana by children age 8 and younger continued to grow in 2018.
“Before legalization, only five cases a year of kids between the ages of zero and nine were being exposed to marijuana products, now that’s up to 50,” said Luke Niforatos, Chief of Staff and Senior Policy Advisor with Smart Approaches to Marijuana, an advocacy group fighting commercialization of marijuana.
He believes the report should be a wake-up call to state lawmakers to tighten up restrictions on the industry.
“This is not going well, this is a real public health disaster,” Niforatos said. “It’s time that our government stopped letting the industry do whatever it wants in our state and really started putting the clamp down.”
Underage marijuana use may contribute to a higher risk of mental health issues. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports multiple studies have noticed a correlation between marijuana use and higher rates of schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders.
However, they also state, “whether and to what extent it actually causes these conditions is not always easy to determine.”
The CDPHE recommends using its data to create targeted education and prevention campaigns.