Press Release: One Chance Comments on 2021 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey

Contact: Rachel O’Bryan, One Chance to Grow Up, 303-809-1081

Note: Rachel O’Bryan is available for interviews on this analysis of new state data released today.

DENVER — For the first time since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2012 middle school students were surveyed on methods of marijuana use and high school students were surveyed on use of high THC concentrates.

Middle schoolers marijuana users were more likely than high school marijuana users to consume edibles, 38.8% compared to 36.6%. Of middle school students who used marijuana in the past 30 days, 32.5% also reported vaping it and 39.5% dabbing it, according to official state data released today (June 15, 2022).

Rachel O’Bryan, an expert in the field of marijuana commercialization and the impacts on kids and one of the co-founders of One Chance to Grow Upsaid, “The data on middle school methods of use is long overdue in a state where there are no limits to products and THC is infused in an endless array of kid-friendly candies and sweets.”

Also for the first time, high school students were asked in 2021 the question “During the past 30 days, on how many days did you use THC concentrates, hash oil or waxes?” THC concentrates contain a distilled form of the psychoactive ingredient from marijuana.

In 2021, 8.8% of all high school students used ultra potent THC on one or more days. Of current high school student marijuana users, 49.2% reported they dabbed marijuana in the past 30 days, while 39.1% vaped it. The vaping statistic is an all time high, up 80% since 2015.

“I am not surprised by these numbers,” O’Bryan said. “This state allows THC concentrate vaporizer cartridges and pens to be marketed in flavors that are federally banned for nicotine vaporizers, because they were found to be appealing to kids. And products play off kid culture, with marijuana strains named after superheroes or Girl Scout cookies. THC concentrates can harm the developing brain of teens. These use rates remain unacceptably high.”

O’Bryan says there were a few pieces of good news in the survey. The percentage of students who drove after using marijuana dropped by half from 11.2% to 5.5%. “I am so glad to see teens are hearing the message that marijuana impairs your ability to drive, just like alcohol does.”

O’Bryan is also cautiously optimistic about a reported drop in the past 30 day marijuana use rate for high school students. Current use decreased significantly from 20.6% in 2019 to 13.3% in 2021.

“We all know kids and parents have been home more these past 2 years. That has allowed parents to better monitor their children. We think this is reflected in the data. We’d be gratified for this to be a permanent reduction in youth use, but until life returns to normal and another survey confirms this trend, the state cannot rest on this accomplishment.”

THC concentration became a rising concern in Colorado after the rate of high school students reporting that they dab ultra potent THC concentrates to get high significantly increased in 2019. The shocking statistic also prompted Gov. Polis to list among his “wildly important goals” decreasing the prevalence of dabbing as the usual method of use among high school students who consume marijuana.

In 2020, the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment released a report on THC Concentration in Colorado Marijuana. “[I]t is clear that use of products with high concentrations of THC are associated with higher rates of psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia, psychosis, and generalized anxiety disorder.”

Beginning January 2022, the state requires customers be provided an educational handout with each sale of marijuana concentrate that contains four health warnings that address psychotic symptoms, mental health symptoms, Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome (uncontrolled and repetitive vomiting), and cannabis use disorder/dependence. The handout also advises against THC concentrate use by persons under 25 because “People 25 and under may be at greater risk of potential harm because the brain is not fully developed.”

The latest bi-annual Healthy Kids Colorado Survey results are based on surveys conducted of over 50,000 middle and high school students statewide in fall 2021.