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Indiana Prevention Resource Center (IPRC)

Marijuana Awareness: Early Findings from Colorado's Experience

The following are excerpts from Colorado with regards to the impact of Colorado’s marijuana policy on public health and on youth. This data can be useful for Indiana communities in their marijuana awareness media campaign efforts. These excerpts are taken from the executive summary of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado: Early Findings, A Report Pursuant to Senate Bill 13-283 (March 2016) from the Colorado Department of Public Safety. The full report is available through the IPRC at www.drugs.indiana.edu/repository/2016-SB13-283-Rpt.pdf.

Source: http://www.weedist.com/2014/09/get-employee-badge-colorado-marijuana-enforcement-division/

Marijuana Legalization in Colorado: Early Findings(excerpts)

Public Health

• According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the current prevalence rates for marijuana usage in the past 30 days have increased significantly for young adults (18 to 25 years old), from 21% in 2006 (pre-commercialization) to 31% in 2014 (post-commercialization). Reported current marijuana use by adults (26 years or older) increased significantly, from 5% in 2006 to 12% in 2014.

• The Colorado Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) is a statewide telephone survey conducted by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). In 2014 the BRFFS was expanded to include questions about marijuana use. Overall, in 2014, 14% of adults reported marijuana use in the past 30 days and 33% of current users reported using daily.

• The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment analyzed data from the Colorado Hospital Administration and categorized visits according to determine if the visit indicated possible marijuana exposure or used a diagnosis/billing code indicating marijuana.

• Hospitalizations with possible marijuana exposures, diagnoses, or billing codes per 100,000 hospitalizations increased from 803 per 100,000 before commercialization (2001-2009) to 2,413 per 100,000 after commercialization (2014-June 2015).

• The period of retail commercialization showed a significant increase in emergency department visits, from 739 per 100,000 (2010–2013) to 956 per 100,000 ED visits (2014–June 2015).

• The number of calls to poison control mentioning human marijuana exposure has increased over the past 10 years. There were 44 calls in 2006 and 227 in 2015.

Youth Impacts

• Data on youth marijuana use is available from two sources, the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, with 40,000 students responding in 2013 and the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, with fewer than 1,000 respondents.

  • The HKCS results indicate a slight decline in “past 30 day use” of marijuana while the NSDUH shows a gradual increase over time. In 2013, the HKCS found that 80% of high school students did not use marijuana in the past 30 days. The HKCS shows that marijuana use increases by grade level, and the NSDUH shows that youth use of marijuana in Colorado is above the national average. The perception of health risk of using marijuana is declining among youth in Colorado, according to both surveys.

• The number of juvenile marijuana arrests increased 5%, from 3,234 in 2012 to 3,400 in 2014. The rate of juvenile marijuana arrests per 100,000 increased from 598 in 2012 to 611 in 2014 (+2%).

  • The number of White juvenile arrests decreased from 2,198 in 2012 to 2,016 in 2014 (-8%).
  • The number of Hispanic juvenile arrests increased from 778 in 2012 to 1,006 in 2014 (+29%).
  • The number of African-American juvenile arrests increased from 205 in 2012 to 324 in 2014 (+58%).

• Data on drug tests from the Division of Probation Services shows that the percent of 10- to 14-year-old group testing positive for THC one or two times increased from 19% in 2012 to 23% in 2014, while the percentage testing positive three or more times went from 18% to 25%. The percent of 15- to 17-year-olds testing positive one or two times went down slightly, from 26% in 2012 to 25% in 2014, while those testing positive three or more times increased from 23% to 25%.

• The Colorado Department of Education data shows that that drug suspension rates increased from 391 (per 100,000 registered students) in the 2008-09 school year to 506 in 2009-10. The drug suspension rate has fluctuated somewhat since then and was 509 in the 2014-15 school year. The drug expulsion rate was 65 (per 100,000 registered students) in the 2008-09 school year, increasing to 90 in 2009-10, and then decreasing to 50 by 2014-15.

  • In the 2014-15 school year, discipline for drugs accounted for 41% of all expulsions, 31% of all law enforcement referrals, and 6% of all suspensions in Colorado.
  • Note that Senate Bill 12-046 and House Bill 12-1345 targeted reform of “zero tolerance” policies in schools, and appear to have decreased expulsions, suspensions, and referrals to law enforcement.1 To assess drug-endangered children, data from CDPHE’s Child Health Survey (targeting parents with children ages 1-14) was obtained. Of parents with children ages 1–14, 6.9% have some type of marijuana product around the house. When asked about where it is kept, 92% report storing it in a location the child cannot access.

By Barbara Seitz de Martinez, Ph.D. 6/15/2016