The arguments against Colorado’s teen pot optimism

What about the kids who have dropped out of school? Who’s surveying them?

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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Denver's latest cash crop. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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Denver's latest cash crop. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Survey data released this week by the state of Colorado had a finding that a lot of people wanted to hear: Pot use among kids is unchanged (or even lower) since legalization, among other findings.

Today, the Los Angeles Times is out with a few arguments against the optimism the study has inspired, and we’ve culled some from other sources too.

Their points include:

  • The poll’s roughly 17,000 respondents were all enrolled in high school, while the heaviest young users might drop out, critics told the LAT. It’s also voluntary.
  • Use actually is increasing for certain local groups. Eleventh graders in Denver reported a spike in usage, LAT notes.
  • Fewer respondents to this year’s survey saw marijuana as risky.
  • Colorado led the nation in teen use in federal survey data for 2013-14, with about 13 percent reporting usage in the last month, compared to 7 percent in the previous year. Legalization took effect early in 2014, though, so the cause of the discrepancy is muddy.

It’s also worth noting that the youth usage figure from the federal data is actually lower than the portion of teens reporting usage to the state, which was about 21 percent.

Part of the discrepancy may be that the Colorado survey includes more respondents than the federal surveys, as the Washington Post reports — and that points to the ultimate benefit of this new data out of Colorado: It’s some of the only information we have about how legalization really affects kids.

Which is probably why the LAT cares about the methodological details of another state’s survey on youth behaviors. California voters will decide this fall whether they also want to fully legalize recreational use of the drug.