There are a few different go-to arguments that prohibitionists constantly fall back on when they are arguing against marijuana legalization. While we try to argue for the benefits of things that help everyone – like the creation of jobs, more revenue for schools and the state, plus a safer and regulated market – prohibitionists will shoot back with the risk to children, the potential of increased teen use because we’ve normalized it, and they use statistics that are portrayed in a light that makes them appear worse than they are to support these arguments.
However, since Colorado started selling recreational cannabis in 2014 there is a group who has been closely monitoring any changes that they may need to address as a public health concern. The full report is called Monitoring Health Concerns Related to Marijuana in Colorado 2016, and when it was released it provided some great news for supporters of legalization that could squash some of our opponents’ “facts” – exposing them as the scare tactics that they really are.
One of the biggest arguments from opponents is that it will increase teen use. Now, whether they think this will happen purely because of normalizing cannabis or because they think dispensaries are going to actually risk selling to minors is up for debate. However, this recent report shows no change in teen use in Colorado since legalization – and the state is still relatively in line with the national average (where they used to come in higher than average prior to legalization).
As it turns out, offering marijuana legally in a dispensary where minors would be turned away has done nothing to increase teen use – even though when it comes to opinions, less teens find that marijuana is dangerous to use. This could partially be that younger teens are not as interested in cannabis as some may have thought, and also partially that new approaches to talking to teens about marijuana are more successful than those used over the years to enforce prohibition.
“I think that speaks to a learning effect,” Mike Van Dyke, chief of Colorado’s Environmental Epidemiology, Occupational Health and Toxicology branch, said referring to the decline in ER visits and poison center calls. “The public is really learning the message, if not from us, from their own experience.”
These researchers also found that emergency room visits related to marijuana appear to have declined from 2015 to 2016, after a brief spike right after legal sales became available to the public. However, these researchers were also smart to include in their report that this could be due to a variety of different factors including a potential increase in adult consumption after legalization as well as a new willingness to admit to marijuana use to healthcare personnel after legalization (you know, when there is less risk of judgement and/or having CPS intervene if children are involved).
“We are doing our best to study this closely and monitor what’s going on,” he said. “While maybe not apparent from this report, we are taking this evidence base that we’re developing, and we are using it to develop prevention campaigns, education campaigns. We are doing our best to implement an evidence-based policy.”
Overall, the results of this study are finding that none of the fears that prohibitionists like to put out there are able to be backed by statistics of any kind. If anything it has turned out that the exact opposite is true; after tweaking regulations for things such as edibles, giving proper education on consumption, etc., more people are learning to use cannabis responsibly and so many others are proving that we already knew how.