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.
“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.
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.
Photo courtesy of WeedPornDaily.
Marijuana Legalization Could Curb Opioid Crisis In West Virginia, Governor Says
If West Virginia lawmakers send a bill to legalize marijuana to his desk, he will sign it, Gov. Jim Justice (R) said on Tuesday.
While he might not be personally in favor of adult-use legalization, he said in response to a question during a town hall event that he’s heard from members of the medical community who feel that regulating cannabis sales could actually reduce “drug-type problems” like the opioid overdose epidemic, which has hit his state especially hard.
“I’ll just tell it like it is, I’m not educated enough to make a really good assessment as of yet,” he said. “But I can tell you just this: I do believe that that is coming, and the wave is coming across all of our states, and as that wave comes, if our House Republicans and Democrats and Senate Republicans and Democrats would get behind that effort from a standpoint of legalization of recreational marijuana and they would be supportive of that, I would too.”
Watch the governor respond to the marijuana legalization question below:
The governor’s point about the broad public health impacts of legalization is substantiated in a growing body of scientific literature that’s found that increasing legal access to cannabis—which has been shown to effectively treat conditions such as chronic pain with minimal side effects—leads to fewer opioid prescriptions and overdose deaths.
Tuesday’s town hall wasn’t specifically about marijuana, however; rather, it centered on the state’s push to eliminate the income tax. On that note, House Majority Whip Paul Espinosa (R) recently circulated an internal poll among Republican lawmakers, inquiring about what kind of policies—including marijuana legalization—they’d be willing to support to make up revenue for the state as part of the plan to gut the income tax.
When asked about legalization as a means to raise tax revenue that could theoretically be used to get ride of the income tax, Justice said he’s principally opposed to broad reform but “I’m weakening on that position” because while his instinct is to reject regulating marijuana amid the state’s drug crisis, the medical community has shifted his perspective.
Experts “tell me that really and truly the legalizing of marijuana in certain areas or certain states that have that, from a recreational standpoint, have lowered their drug-type problems,” he said.
“If we could bucket the proceeds [from cannabis tax revenue] and use them in a way, just like this personal income tax reduction…in a really beneficial way for all our people,” he would be supportive of that.
Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 700 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.
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West Virginia approved medical cannabis legalization in 2017, which Justice signed into law, and patients were just recently approved to start registering for the program. That said, the state must still partner with a testing laboratory before marijuana products are made available.
Two Democratic candidates who lost their bids for West Virginia House seats last year had pledged to introduce legislation to legalize marijuana in the state if they were elected.
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.
Mississippi House Replaces Senate’s Alternate Medical Marijuana Program With What Voters Originally Approved
“The people have spoken, with a constitutional amendment about medical marijuana, and that bill went against the spirit of what the people decided.”
By Geoff Pender, Mississippi Today
A House panel on Tuesday gutted a Senate medical marijuana proposal and inserted the medical marijuana language voters passed as a constitutional amendment in November.
“I’m interested in seeing that bill die—I think it just did die,” said Rep. Robert Johnson III, House minority leader. “The people have spoken, with a constitutional amendment about medical marijuana, and that bill went against the spirit of what the people decided.”
Johnson made those statements about Senate Bill 2765 on Tuesday afternoon, when it appeared the bill had died, with no Ways and Means Committee meeting called on the floor for the afternoon to take the bill up. Later, Ways and Means had a meeting and took the bill up, then struck the Senate language and inserted Initiative 65. It now goes to the full House and if passed, back to the Senate in its amended form.
Rep. Joel Bomgar, R-Madison, who helped lead, and fund, the successful citizen initiative to enshrine medical marijuana use in the state constitution, offered the amendment to replace the Senate bill language with Initiative 65’s language.
Senate Bill 2765 was originally a legislative alternative to the medical marijuana program voters overwhelmingly approved in November with Ballot Initiative 65, which is now being challenged in the state Supreme Court. The bill passed the Senate only after much wrangling and a “do-over” vote in the wee hours of the morning in mid-February. It was initially drafted to create its own medical marijuana program, regardless of whether the court upholds the voter-passed program. But it was amended during heated Senate debate to take effect only if the courts strike down the voter-passed program.
The legislative move had many Initiative 65 supporters crying foul, claiming the Legislature was trying to usurp the will of the voters. After lawmakers failed for years to approve use of medical marijuana despite a groundswell of public support, voters took matters in hand in November with Initiative 65.
Jessica Rice, director of the Mississippi Cannabis Trade Association was among many watching the legislative alternative marijuana bill with skepticism and trepidation. She questioned whether lawmakers were truly trying to provide a backstop in case courts strike down Initiative 65. If so, she said, they would codify Initiative 65 — as the House panel did — not come up with a proposal with higher taxes and more or different regulations as in the Senate version.
“Our position is that the people have already had an option to vote on a legislative created program, and they chose not to,” Rice said last week. “Just because this is up before the Supreme Court does not give the Legislature a second bite at the apple … I think this is about control — they want to be able to be in control of the program, but people have already rejected that.”
But many state leaders and lawmakers had lamented that Initiative 65 was drafted to favor the marijuana industry and is just short of legalized recreational use. It puts the Mississippi State Department of Health in charge of the program, with no oversight by elected officials. It also prevents standard taxation of the marijuana, and any fees collected by the health department can only be used to run and expand the marijuana program, not go into state taxpayer coffers. The measure allows little regulation by local governments, no limits on the number of dispensaries and otherwise leaves many specifics … unspecified.
The Senate proposal would have taxed medical marijuana, with a 4 percent excise at cultivation, and with a 7 percent sales tax patients would pay, which was originally 10 percent in earlier drafts of the bill. Most of the taxes collected would have gone to education, including early learning and college scholarships. And the Departments of Agriculture and Revenue would be in charge.
The bill also would have imposed large licensing fees on growers and dispensary shop owners. Originally, those fees would have been $100,000 for growers and $20,000 for dispensaries. Those were reduced to $15,000 and $5,000, respectively, on Thursday night. Other changes were made in an effort to assuage those who believed such fees would keep small businesses and farms out of the game.
The bill barely gained the three-fifths vote it needed to pass the Senate. It faced a Tuesday deadline for the Ways and Means Committee to pass it on to the full House. Ways and Means Chairman Trey Lamar had said late Tuesday he was still undecided on what to do with the bill.
He noted the Ways and Means meeting late Tuesday was not announced on the House floor, as is standard procedure.
“No, it wasn’t announced,” Lamar said. “We just added it to the schedule. I know that’s not the usual way we do it, but I wasn’t there to announce it on the floor.”
This left many believing the bill had died on deadline without a vote Tuesday—apparently, including House Speaker Philip Gunn.
Gunn said: “The issue, or the challenge here is that the people voted on it in November, and they spoke pretty strongly… I know there is a lawsuit, but that can be dealt with later if we need to. If the Supreme Court throws out that vote, then the Legislature can come back and deal with it. If they uphold it, well then I don’t know what the Legislature would have to do with it then.”
Mexican Lawmakers To Vote On Marijuana Legalization Next Week
A long-awaited floor vote on a proposal to legalize marijuana in Mexico is being scheduled in the Chamber of Deputies for next week, a move that comes months after the Senate approved the reform.
That said, lawmakers say there is still no formal revised bill for deputies to take up, and it will have to move through the committee process before being potentially returned to the Senate.
Martha Tagle Martínez, a member of the chamber’s Health Committee, said on Tuesday that several groups have reached out to her after receiving what appeared to be a draft legislation to regulate cannabis. She clarified that “there is still no formal or definitive document.”
The Political Coordination Board, which is established by party leaders to reach consensus on legislative issues, has set floor action for March 9. “But there is still no draft opinion,” Martínez said. When there is a bill, it will go to the Health and Justice Committees.
Adicionalmente, la JUCOPO de la @Mx_Diputados ha programado tener la discusión sobre la minuta del senado en materia de #Cannabis para el próximo 9 de marzo, pero aún no hay proyecto de dictamen. Cuando éste circule se deberá convocar a las comisiones unidas de salud y justicia.
— Martha Tagle (@MarthaTagle) March 2, 2021
Those panels will “analyze, discuss, modify and approve the draft opinion” before sending it to the floor.
While it remains to be seen what changes will be made from the Senate version, Martínez said that the current bill as approved in the other chamber does not fulfill the requirements of the Supreme Court, which deemed the prohibition on personal possession and cultivation of marijuana unconstitutional in a 2018 ruling. Lawmakers have since been tasked with ending criminalization, but they’ve repeatedly pushed back deadlines to enact the policy change.
Hasta ahora, ni la minuta del senado, ni observaciones hechas por el gobierno, atienden la resolución de la @SCJN para garantizar los DDHH y el libre desarrollo de la personalidad de usuarios de #Cannabis.
Es nuestra responsabilidad de @Mx_Diputados centrar la discusión en ello.
— Martha Tagle (@MarthaTagle) March 2, 2021
Now the legislature has until the end of April to legalize cannabis nationwide, and it seems next week’s action will set the stage for Congress to make good on its obligation.
In the meantime, the Health Committee already held a preliminary discussion on the issue last month.
EN VIVO / Reunión de Junta Directiva de la Comisión de Salud https://t.co/fToNXQd19B
— Cámara de Diputados (@Mx_Diputados) February 24, 2021
Members of the panel said they wanted to hold four sessions to debate the legislation, but its president, Carmen Medel Palma, has yet to convene them and wants to speed up the process, La Jornada reported.
The Justice Committee also met to discuss the matter on Sunday, according to the group Cáñamo México.
Estimadxs integrantes de la Comisión de @Justicia_Dip, ¿serían tan amables de informarnos lo sucedido en su Reunión Extraordinaria de la Junta Directiva sobre la dictaminación de la Ley Federal para la Regulación del Cannabis sucedida hoy a las 17 horas? @Mx_Diputados #Cannabis
— Cáñamo México (@canamo_mexico) March 2, 2021
The two panels were initially expected to send a revised legalization proposal to the floor last month, but that didn’t happen.
➡️ Informa la presidenta de la Comisión de Salud que se prevé que esta semana se convoque a reunión de comisiones unidas para discutir y votar el dictamen a la minuta en materia de regulación de cannabis. https://t.co/2mBuGsv3kj
— Cámara de Diputados (@Mx_Diputados) February 23, 2021
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, for his part, said in December that a vote on legalization legislation was delayed due to minor “mistakes” in the proposal.
He said “there was no time to conduct a review” in the legislature before the prior December 15 Supreme Court deadline, but he noted that issues that need to be resolved are “matters of form” and “not of substance.”
The Senate passed the legalization bill in November and transmitted it to the Chamber of Deputies. Several committees took up the bill, with the Human Rights and Budget and Public Account Committees representing one panel that considered and advanced it just before the the court granted lawmakers’ latest deadline extension request.
While advocates are eager for lawmakers to formally end prohibition, they hoped the delay would give them more time to try to convince the legislature to address their concerns about certain provisions of the current bill, namely the limited nature of its social equity components and strict penalties for violating rules.
In response to unofficial drafts of the legalization measure that were obtained by advocacy groups, Regulación Por La Paz said the proposals “give way to a regulation designed as a way for the great national and international capital, at the cost of the criminalization of users” and that the draft legislation “prioritizes the interests of the industry over rights and needs of the Mexican citizenship.”
⚠ #Comunicado ⚠
Desde #RegulaciónPorLaPaz vemos con preocupación el rumbo que está tomando la discusión en torno a la regulación de #cannabis en la @Mx_Diputados debido a que prioriza los intereses de la industria por encima de los derechos y necesidades de la ciudadanía. pic.twitter.com/zSy3phdNMr
— Regulación Por La Paz (@regulacionxpaz) February 24, 2021
“The worst they propose [is] a registry for self cultivators,” Mariana Sevilla of Regulación Por La Paz told Marijuana Moment, adding that she also concerned about the inclusion of vertical integration for cannabis businesses.
Activists also want to increase the percentage of licenses granted to people harmed by prohibition.
“To avoid the formation of corporate oligopolies and promote a horizontal and inclusive market that encourages dignified participation and fair conditions for communities in vulnerable situations, it is essential to incorporate a perspective of social justice,” Zara Snapp of the Instituto RIA and #RegulacionPorLaPaz wrote in an op-ed coauthored by ReverdeSer Colectivo Coordinator Amaya Ordorika Imaz.
The legalization bill cleared a joint group of Senate committees prior to the full floor vote in that chamber, with some amendments being made after members informally considered and debated the proposal during a virtual hearing.
Members of the Senate’s Justice, Health, and Legislative Studies Committees had approved a prior version of legal cannabis legislation last March, but the coronavirus pandemic delayed consideration of the issue.
In general, the Senate bill would establish a regulated cannabis market, allowing adults 18 and older to purchase and possess up to 28 grams of marijuana and cultivate up to six plants for personal use.
The legislation makes some attempts to mitigate the influence of large marijuana corporations. For example, it states that for the first five years after implementation, at least 40 percent of cannabis business licenses must be granted to those from indigenous, low-income or historically marginalized communities.
The Mexican Institute of Cannabis would be responsible for regulating the market and issuing licenses.
Public consumption of marijuana would be allowed, except in places where tobacco use is prohibited or at mass gatherings where people under 18 could be exposed.
Households where more than one adult lives would be limited to cultivating a maximum of eight plants. The legislation also says people “should not” consume cannabis in homes where there are underaged individuals. Possession of more than 28 grams but fewer than 200 grams would be considered an infraction punishable by a fine but no jail time.
Sen. Julio Ramón Menchaca Salazar of the MORENA party said in April that legalizing cannabis could fill treasury coffers at a time when the economy is recovering from the pandemic.
As lawmakers work to advance the reform legislation, there’s been a more lighthearted push to focus attention on the issue by certain members and activists. That push has mostly involved planting and gifting marijuana.
In September, a top administration official was gifted a cannabis plant by senator on the Senate floor, and she said she’d be making it a part of her personal garden.
A different lawmaker gave the same official, Interior Ministry Secretary Olga Sánchez Cordero, a marijuana joint on the floor of the Chamber of Deputies in 2019.
Cannabis made another appearance in the legislature in August, when Sen. Jesusa Rodríguez of the MORENA party decorated her desk with a marijuana plant.
Drug policy reform advocates have also been cultivating hundreds of marijuana plants in front of the Senate, putting pressure on legislators to make good on their pledge to advance legalization.