A group of people campaigning against marijuana legalization and calling themselves SAM, for “Smart Approaches to Marijuana,” is citing a new source in their fight to roll-back legalization of cannabis in Colorado.
A recent analysis of data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) shows a small, statistically insignificant increase in cannabis consumption by Colorado teenagers between 2012-13, when marijuana possession by adults 21 and older became legal in that state, and 2013-14, when state-licensed merchants began selling marijuana to recreational consumers.
The raw numbers look like this: 2-to-17-year-olds reporting marijuana use in the previous month rose from 11.2 percent to 12.6 percent.
That difference of 1.4% is negligible, given the small sample size of the study.
But that hasn’t stopped the anti-pot SAM group from running with the numbers.
“Colorado now leads the country in past-month youth marijuana use, after legalizing marijuana in 2012. The state claims this dubious distinction after being in third place in the 2012-2013 report, and in fourth place in the 2011-2012 study,” SAM wrote on their website.
But Reason.com points out that focusing on the change in Colorado’s rank allows SAM to hide the fact that neither of these changes was statistically significant
SAM President Kevin Sabet further misled by blaming “Big Tobacco” for a possibly nonexistent increase in underage use. “In Colorado especially,” he said, “Big Marijuana has been allowed to run wild, and it appears that kids are paying the price more than in any other state in the country.”
While these Colorado upticks may turn into a meaningful trend, there are reasons to be skeptical that legalization is to blame.
Of course it’s both possible and reasonable to assume that the newly legal adult marijuana market in states such as Colorado and Washington will lead to an increase in adolescent use.
But it will take several more years of data, plus comparisons to pre-existing trends and numbers from other states, to get a better sense of what is actually happening regarding teen cannabis consumption.
(Photo Credit: thefreethoughtproject.com)