Local youth believe underage marijuana use has increased with legalization | SteamboatToday.com
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Local youth believe underage marijuana use has increased with legalization

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With the legalization of recreational marijuana came Colorado’s first public education campaign for the safe use of the drug.

The Good to Know campaign aims to teach responsible use of marijuana among adults, and it provides details of the recreational marijuana law and why the drug isn’t safe for those under 21.

The campaign includes an educational video and radio ads that promote phrases like “for those underage, it’s just not OK. Their brains are still growing, so keep it away.”

The video is available at http://www.goodtoknowcolorado.com.

More educational information is available via a link on the Good to Know site, including information about how marijuana potency has increased dramatically over the last 40 years, how marijuana can effect pets and pregnant women and tips for how to talk to children about marijuana use.

The campaign has been paid for out of recreational marijuana tax dollars.

— Sitting around a stately wooden table in Centennial Hall downtown, members of the Steamboat Springs Teen Council are unanimous in their opinion that legalizing recreational marijuana has upped the chances that local teens will give the drug a try.

The teens, many in their senior year at local high schools, hadn’t even entered elementary school when medical marijuana was legalized in 2000, and they’ve watched closely as perceptions of the drug have shifted in the last year, since recreational marijuana is now sold legally.

“People think if the law allows it, it’s less scary,” senior Mariah Hoots said.



“With legalization, people will listen to how it isn’t bad for you,” senior Becca Alfone added.

Hoots said that when she was in eighth grade, she barely knew what marijuana was, but this year, she saw a middle school student participate in a drug deal.



Other students said use also has increased among local adults, including parents.

“Now that it’s legal, more parents are doing it,” Colin Musselman said.

Learning more:

With the legalization of recreational marijuana came Colorado’s first public education campaign for the safe use of the drug.

The Good to Know campaign aims to teach responsible use of marijuana among adults, and it provides details of the recreational marijuana law and why the drug isn’t safe for those under 21.

The campaign includes an educational video and radio ads that promote phrases like “for those underage, it’s just not OK. Their brains are still growing, so keep it away.”

The video is available at http://www.goodtoknowcolorado.com.

More educational information is available via a link on the Good to Know site, including information about how marijuana potency has increased dramatically over the last 40 years, how marijuana can effect pets and pregnant women and tips for how to talk to children about marijuana use.

The campaign has been paid for out of recreational marijuana tax dollars.

While members of the Teen Council are sure that legalization is making marijuana use more widespread, student surveys and staff in the Steamboat Springs School District aren’t so sure.

Though 2014 data regarding teen marijuana use in Colorado is not yet available, teens in South Routt, Hayden and Steamboat participated in the Healthy Kids Colorado survey in the fall of 2013, at a time when recreational marijuana was legal, but just before retail shops were allowed to open in January 2014.

Conducted through a partnership with the Grand Futures Prevention Coalition, the survey found in 2013 that 15.7 percent of high school students reported using marijuana in the last 30 days, down from 19 percent in 2012. Students also reported a 7 percent decrease in their ease of access to marijuana, from 65 percent reporting easy access in 2010 down to 58 percent in 2013.

State and national surveys have reflected similar trends regarding teen marijuana use between 2012 and 2013.

Grand Futures Prevention Coalition’s Routt County program director Kate Elkins said regardless of the survey, she has immediate concerns about youth marijuana use, including how teens will experiment with edibles and whether accessibility to the drug has increased.

“One would imagine with increased product, it would be a bit easier to get,” Elkins said.

She said strict retail marijuana regulations might stop underage users from going to the stores themselves, but it doesn’t prevent “shoulder tapping,” where kids ask adults to purchase for them.

School Resource Officer Kristin Bantle said that she hasn’t seen much change in teen use over the last year and said the most common place where students claim to have obtained marijuana is from their parents.

Legalization also hasn’t changed who the typical marijuana offenders are at Steamboat Springs High School, Bantle said.

According to district records, student marijuana offenses have risen over the last two years, with eight offenses in the 2012-13 school year, 14 last year and 17 so far this year.

Superintendent Brad Meeks said that while the numbers are up, he isn’t yet concerned about student use. He said the numbers include repeat offenders and also reflect a growing population of students in the district.

“At this point, I’m not overly alarmed,” Meeks said. “We’re always going to be dealing with these types of issues with the teenage population.”

Not unlike the more recent phenomenon of cyber bullying, Meeks said the legalization of recreational marijuana presents a new challenge for the district that will be tackled with educational campaigns and ongoing support for students.

Bantle and Elkins gave an educational presentation during a Parent Information Committee meeting last month at Steamboat Springs High School.

The two brought a handful of marijuana-infused products available in local stores to show parents, including attractively bottled sparkling water and colorful candies, each packed with several doses of marijuana’s active ingredient, THC.

The existence of many of the products was surprising to parents at the PIC meeting, most of whom were unfamiliar with marijuana-infused drinks or increasingly popular electronic smoking devices.

Elkins pointed out that several of the products had vastly different amounts of THC in them, which could lead to students accidentally taking more than they intend.

Whether use has truly increased among local teens may become evident after students are surveyed again this fall.

“It will be interesting to see in 2015 — that will be the telling year,” Elkins said.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow


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