Colorado: Youth pot use hasn’t gone up since legalization

DENVER (AP) — Marijuana use among Colorado high schoolers has not increased since legalization, the state Health Department reported Monday in a new batch of youth survey results.

The 2015 Healthy Kids Colorado survey of about 17,000 middle and high school students across the state showed that 21.2 percent of high school students reported that they currently use pot. That’s just a hair below the national average, which was 21.7 percent.

Since voters approved recreational marijuana use for those 21 and older in 2012, Colorado has worked to keep youths off of pot. Campaigns have said the drug will keep them from achieving their full potential and reminded them their brains aren’t fully developed until they reach 25.

Nine of 10 Colorado high school youth said they don’t smoke cigarettes, the highest rejection of smoking by high school youth in the past decade.

Colorado health authorities praised the results as an indication that risk-prevention efforts are working.

“Overall, young people in Colorado are making healthy choices,” said Leo Kattari, survey coordinator for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

For the first time, the survey took note of the health behaviors of high school students who identified as transgender. Those students reported higher rates of tobacco use, drug use and bullying.

For example, more than 25 percent of high schoolers who identified themselves as transgender said they had used heroin.

Survey authors noted that the sample size for transgender students was small. Still, they said the numbers suggest an alarming discrepancy in youth health.

“We almost expected there to be greater health disparities among this population,” Kattari said. “It’s because of those daily experiences of bias, stigma and discrimination.”

The survey did not make policy suggestions addressing health disparities for transgender students.

Middle school students were not asked about gender identity.

Kattari said that few states seek health data comparing transgender youth health with others, so making national comparisons problematic.

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Kristen Wyatt can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/APkristenwyatt

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Healthy Kids Colorado Survey: https://goo.gl/DVxqW5

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