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Colorado Youth Marijuana Use ‘Has Not Significantly Changed’ Since Legalization, State Data Shows

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Youth marijuana use in Colorado “has not significantly changed since legalization” in 2012, but methods of consumption are diversifying, state officials announced in a report on Monday.

While the specific ways that teens are using cannabis are shifting—with more young people choosing to dab or vape cannabis instead of smoking it—the report offers additional evidence that ending the prohibition of marijuana for adult use hasn’t led to a statistically significant increase in overall use among middle school and high school students.

The biennial Healthy Kids Colorado Survey shows that 20.6 percent of high school students and 5.2 percent of middle school students reported past 30 day cannabis consumption in 2019. For the high school category, that’s 1.2 percentage points higher compared to the most recent biennial survey in 2017—but it’s still lower than the last pre-legalization report in 2011, when that group’s consumption rate was 22 percent.

There was no change for the middle school group from 2017 to 2019, but past 30 day use is lower than the 2011 pre-legalization rate of 6.3 percent.

Via CDPHE.

“Youth marijuana use has not significantly changed since legalization, but the way youth are using marijuana is changing,” the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) said in a press release.

An official with the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy’s National Marijuana Initiative expressed a similar sentiment to lawmakers last month, stating that for reasons that are unclear, youth consumption of cannabis “is going down” in Colorado and other legalized states and that it’s “a good thing” even if “we don’t understand why.”

Prohibitionist group Smart Approaches To Marijuana (SAM) framed the new state data differently, attempting to cast the 2019 numbers as showing dramatic increases in youth consumption. Initially, their press release stated that there was a 15.5 percent increase in cannabis consumption among kids aged 15 and under from 2017 to 2019.

Marijuana Moment pointed out to the group’s executive vice president that that’s wrong; the 15.5 percent figure is how many of those aged 15 and under reported past 30 day marijuana use in 2019, rather than a 15.5 increase. SAM has since corrected its release.

Later in its press release, SAM states that there was a 14.8 percent increase in past 30 day use in that age group over the two year period, which is technically accurate but appears to deliberately attempt to create the impression that there was a 14.8 percentage point increase. In reality, the data shows 13.5 percent of those 15 and under used marijuana in the past 30 days in 2017, with that growing to 15.5 percent in 2019.

The group also leaves out that the 2019 rate of 15.5 percent is not a statistically significant increase compared to the 15.4 percent rate of 2013—the first year of implementation in Colorado and the first year where this specific data is available.

“Marijuana use went up in 2019 compared to 2017—full stop,” Colton Grace, communications associate for SAM, told Marijuana Moment, deflecting from the issue of how current use compares to the pre-legalization period. “CDPHE applied their own significance measure to report that this increase was not significant when combining all grades.”

SAM claimed youth use has “spiked,” with increases it characterized as “significant” despite how state officials have described their data.

“You can see the desperation of our opponents in their refusal to even accept basic facts when they are laid out clearly to them,” Erik Altieri, executive director of NORML, told Marijuana Moment. “With legalization now functional and operating as intended in many states, their game of playing Chicken Little is wearing thin.”

“Not only has the sky not fallen, but we are seeing the positive impact socially and economically of moving away from our failed prohibition,” he said. “The few remaining prohibitionists are stuck living out the adage: ‘If you have the facts on your side, pound the facts. If you have the law on your side, pound the law. If you have neither on your side, pound the send tweet button on your baseless rant.'”

Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, told Marijuana Moment that SAM “has a long history of misrepresenting data specific to marijuana law reform and its impact on youth use patterns in an attempt to fit their own pre-conceived narrative,” noting past instances where the group’s analysis of prior studies on the subject seem to misrepresent conclusions reached by researchers.

Outside of the overall youth usage statistics, the new CDPHE report also highlighted shifts in methods of consumption.

While smoking cannabis remains the most common way high school students use marijuana at 15.3 percent, it’s down from 17.6 percent in 2017 and 18.6 percent in 2015. Dabbing among this group increased from 6.9 percent in 2017 to 10.2 percent in 2019. Vaping is also more common, growing from 4 percent in 2017 to 6.8 percent in 2019.

Via CDPHE.

CDPHE described these findings as “concerning trends since marijuana products associated with these methods of consumption often contain high concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive compound within marijuana.”

“Public health and key partners should prioritize youth marijuana prevention efforts to mitigate these increasing trends,” the department said.

“Consistent with prior data from other states, youth marijuana use is largely stable post-legalization,” Armentano of NORML said “That said, young people—like Americans of all ages—are broadening the ways with which they are consuming cannabis, as a greater variety of cannabis products are available now than were in decades past.”

“As varying methods of ingestion can directly influence the length and degree of drug effect, it is more important than ever that would-be consumers of any age are educated to these differences and that licensed retailers remain diligent that these products, and the more potent products in particular, are not diverted to those who are underage,” he said.

Past studies looking at teen use rates after legalization have found similar declines or a lack of evidence indicating there’s been an increase.

Last year, for example, a study took data from Washington State and determined that declining youth marijuana consumption could be explained by replacing the illicit market with regulations or the “loss of novelty appeal among youths.” Another study from last year showed declining youth cannabis consumption in legalized states but didn’t suggest possible explanations.

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Photo courtesy of WeedPornDaily.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based senior editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

Politics

Virginia Has Sealed 64,000 Marijuana Distribution Charges Since Legalization Took Effect This Summer

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“These aren’t just numbers and there are families attached.”

By Ned Oliver, Virginia Mercury

Virginia has sealed records documenting more than 64,000 misdemeanor marijuana distribution charges since the state legalized the drug in July.

The figure came out Thursday during a meeting of the legislature’s Cannabis Oversight Commission.

Officials said the records were scrubbed from the state’s criminal record database, which is used by employers like school boards, state agencies and local governments to screen employees.

The state had already sealed 333,000 records detailing charges of simple possession last year after the state reduced the offense to a civil infraction on par with a traffic offense, said Shawn G. Talmadge, the Deputy Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security.

Lawmakers directed the state to expand that effort when they voted to broadly legalize recreational use of marijuana earlier this year.

The legislature also agreed to a broader expungement reform that will automatically seal other misdemeanor charges, including underage possession of alcohol, use of a fake ID, petit larceny, trespassing and disorderly conduct. Talmadge said those charges will remain in the system until the state finishes updating the software it uses to track criminal records.

“As of right now, the process is proceeding,” he said.

Members of the oversight commission also heard from two advocates who urged them to move fast to address people currently imprisoned for marijuana offenses—a category of people the legalization legislation passed this year did not address.

Chelsea Higgs Wise, the leader of the advocacy group Marijuana Justice, and Gracie Burger, with the Last Prisoner Project, said Department of Corrections data suggests there are currently 10 people being held solely on serious marijuana charges.

They said it remains unknown how many more are being held because of marijuana related probation violations.

“These aren’t just numbers and there are families attached,” Burger said.

This story was first published by Virginia Mercury,

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DEA Proposes Dramatic Increase In Marijuana And Psychedelic Production In 2022, Calling For 6,300 Percent More MDMA Alone

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The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is proposing a dramatic increase in the legal production of marijuana and psychedelics like psilocybin, LSD, MDMA and DMT to be used in research next year.

In a notice scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on Monday, the agency said there’s been a “significant increase in the use of schedule I hallucinogenic controlled substances for research and clinical trial purposes,” and it wants authorized manufacturers to meet that growing demand.

DEA had already massively upped its proposed 2021 quota for cannabis and psilocybin last month, but now it’s calling for significantly larger quantities of research-grade marijuana and a broader array of psychedelics to be manufactured in 2022.

It wants to double the amount of marijuana extracts, psilocybin and psilocyn, quadruple mescaline and quintuple DMT. What especially stands out in the notice is MDMA. The agency is proposing an enormous 6,300 percent boost in the production of that drug—from just 50 grams in 2021 to 3,200 grams in the coming year—as research into its therapeutic potential continues to expand.

LSD would see a 1,150 percent increase, up to 500 grams of the potent psychedelic.

Marijuana itself would get a 60 percent boost under DEA’s proposal, up to 3.2 million grams in 2022 from the 2 million grams last year.

Here’s a visualization of the proposed quota increase from 2021 to 2022 for marijuana and cannabis extracts:

For all other THC, psilocybin, psilocyn and MDMA:

And for other psychedelic substances like LSD, mescaline and DMT:

DEA said in the Federal Register notice that it has been receiving and approving additional applications to “grow, synthesize, extract, and manufacture dosage forms containing specific schedule I hallucinogenic substances for clinical trial purposes” to achieve these ambitious quotas.

“DEA supports regulated research with schedule I controlled substances, as evidenced by increases proposed for 2022 as compared with aggregate production quotas for these substances in 2021,” the agency said, adding that it working “diligently” to process and approve marijuana manufacturers applications in particular, as there’s currently only one farm at the University of Mississippi that’s permitted to cultivate the plant for research.

“Based on the increase in research and clinical trial applications, DEA has proposed increases in 3,4- Methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA), 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), 5-Methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine, Dimethyltryptamine, Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), Marihuana, Marihuana Extract, Mescaline, Psilocybin, Psilocyn, and All Other Tetrahydrocannabinols to support manufacturing activities related to the increased level of research and clinical trials with these schedule I controlled substances.”

Here are the exact numbers for the proposed 2021 and 2022 quotas:

Substance 2021
2022 proposed
Marijuana 2,000,000 3,200,000
Marijuana extract 500,000 1,000,000
All other tetrahydrocannabinol 1,000 2,000
Psilocybin 1,500 3,000
Psilocyn 1,000 2,000
MDMA 50 3,200
LSD 40 500
Mescaline 25 100
DMT 50 250
5-MeO-DMT 35 550
MDA 55 200

A 30-day public comment period will be open after the notice is formally published on Monday.

It’s difficult to overstate just how significant the proposed 2022 increases are, but it’s certainly true that scientific and public interest in marijuana and psychedelics has rapidly increased, with early clinical trials signaling that such substances show significant therapeutic potential.

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Director Nora Volkow told Marijuana Moment in a recent interview that she was encouraged by DEA’s previous proposed increase in drug production quota. She also said that studies demonstrating the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics could be leading more people to experiment with substances like psilocybin.

Advocates and experts remain frustrated that these plants and fungi remain in the strictest federal drug category in the first place, especially considering the existing research that shows their medical value for certain conditions.

A federal appeals court in August dismissed a petition to require the DEA to reevaluate cannabis’s scheduling under the Controlled Substances Act. However, one judge did say in a concurring opinion that the agency may soon be forced to consider a policy change anyway based on a misinterpretation of the therapeutic value of marijuana.

Separately, the Washington State attorney general’s office and lawyers representing cancer patients recently urged a federal appeals panel to push for a DEA policy change to allow people in end-of-life care to access psilocybin under state and federal right-to-try laws.

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Image element courtesy of Kristie Gianopulos.

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Supreme Court Won’t Hear Case On Legalizing Safe Drug Consumption Sites, But Activists Are Undeterred

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The U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) has rejected a request to hear a case on the legality of establishing safe injection sites where people can use illicit drugs in a medically supervised environment.

The justices announced on Tuesday that they decided against taking up the case raised by the nonprofit Safehouse, despite the pleas of attorneys general from 10 states and D.C. who recently filed amici briefs urging the court’s involvement.

Representatives from 14 cities and counties, as well as the mayor of Philadelphia, which is at the center of the current case, also filed briefs in support of the case in recent days.

Safehouse was set to launch a safe consumption site in Philadelphia before being blocked by a legal challenge from the Trump administration. It filed a petition with the nation’s highest court in August to hear the case.

But while the Supreme Court declined to take action—and the Biden administration passed up its voluntary opportunity to weigh in at this stage, which may well have influenced the justices’ decision—activists say the battle will continue at a lower federal court level, where the administration will have to file briefs revealing its position on the issue.

“We were disappointed that the government chose not to respond to our petition,” Safehouse Vice President Ronda Goldfein told Filter. “They said, ‘We’re going to waive our right to respond,’ [and] the Supreme Court declined to review our case. Ordinarily that sounds like the end of the road—but in our case we are still pursuing our claims in a different venue.”

That venue will be the the federal district court in Philadelphia, where activists plan to submit multiple arguments related to religious freedom and interstate commerce protections. The Biden administration will be compelled to file a response in that court by November 5.

“If they don’t respond, they lose,” Goldfein said.

A coalition of 80 current and former prosecutors and law enforcement officials—including one who is President Joe Biden’s pick for U.S. attorney of Massachusetts—previously filed a brief urging the Supreme Court to take up Safehouse’s safe injection case.

Fair and Justice Prosecution, the group that coordinated the amicus brief, also organized a tour of Portugal for 20 top prosecutors in 2019 so they could learn about the successful implementation of the country’s drug decriminalization law.

If the Supreme Court were to have taken the case and rule in favor of Safehouse, it could have emboldened advocates and lawmakers across the country to pursue the harm reduction policy.

The governor of Rhode Island signed a bill in July to establish a safe consumption site pilot program where people could test and use currently illicit drugs in a medically supervised environment. It became the first state in the country to legalize the harm reduction centers. It’s not clear whether the Department of Justice will seek to intervene to prevent the opening of such facilities in that state.

Massachusetts lawmakers advanced similar legislation last year, but it was not ultimately enacted.

A similar harm reduction bill in California, sponsored by Sen. Scott Wiener (D), was approved in the state Senate in April, but further action has been delayed until 2022.

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