Eight years after Colorado became the first state to legalize recreational marijuana, data shows youth are being exposed to radically new types of products with ultra-high concentrations of THC, the drug’s main high-inducing chemical, according to a new white paper.
The research paper, Colorado Kids Are Collateral Damage in a THC Potency Arms Race, reviews available research and identifies numerous concerning trends including:
- Rising frequency of marijuana use by youth, especially those using daily or nearly daily.
- A persisting shift by high schoolers away from smoking marijuana to using new THC products with exponentially higher potency.
- Statistically significant increases across the state in youth use of edibles and dabbing ultra-potent THC concentrates (in 2017) and dabbing and vaping (in 2019).
- Almost double the national rate for daily marijuana use among young adults who were in middle and high school when legalization occurred.
“When Colorado voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, they probably didn’t envision these new easily concealable extremely high-THC products like dissolvable powders, kid-friendly candies, asthma-style inhalers, and suppositories,” said Rachel O’Bryan, the paper’s author. “Dabbing — where nearly pure THC resin is heated with a blow torch and inhaled — has become especially popular with teens, whose growing brains can be permanently harmed.”
The white paper includes photos of these types of THC products bought in stores in Colorado and other states that have legalized recreational marijuana.
O’Bryan, an attorney, has been involved in Colorado’s historic recreational marijuana legislative and regulatory process since 2013. She was appointed by former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to serve on a subcommittee of the Amendment 64 Implementation Task Force to provide a voice for citizens, including kids. She was also appointed by the State Marijuana Enforcement Division to serve on several stakeholder working groups focused on rule-making for Retail Marijuana Product Potency and Serving Size, Production Caps, Record-keeping, Enforcement, and Discipline.
She is a co-founder of One Chance to Grow Up (onechancetogrowup.org), which shares with the nation what we’ve learned in Colorado as the first nonprofit in the U.S. dedicated solely to protecting children in the age of legal marijuana. One Chance to Grow Up is an initiative of Smart Colorado, a project of the Colorado Nonprofit Development Center.
The full white paper is available for download here.