Adolescent Marijuana Use and Perceived Ease of Access Before and After Recreational Marijuana Implementation in Colorado

Subst Use Misuse. 2018 Feb 23;53(3):451-456. doi: 10.1080/10826084.2017.1334069. Epub 2017 Aug 17.


Background: As of January 1, 2017, eight states have approved laws for recreational marijuana use. While the social impacts of these changes remain under debate, the influence on adolescent marijuana use is a key policy and health issue across the U.S.

Objective: To examine changes in adolescent marijuana-use behaviors in the first year after recreational marijuana implementation in Colorado, and to analyze the effect of retail marijuana store proximity on youth use and perceptions.

Method: Secondary analysis of Healthy Kids Colorado Survey data from 40 schools surveyed before and after recreational marijuana sales were implemented (2013 student n = 12,240; 2014 student n = 11,931). Self-reported marijuana use, ease of access, and perceived harms were compared between years and by proximity of recreational marijuana stores to surveyed schools.

Results: Adolescent marijuana use behaviors, wrongness of use, and perceptions of risk of harm were unchanged from baseline to one-year follow-up. Perceived ease of access to marijuana increased (from 46% to 52%). Proximity of recreational marijuana stores was not significantly associated with perceived ease of access to marijuana. Conclusions/Importance: In the first study of adolescent marijuana use and perceptions after state retail implementation of recreational marijuana, there was little change in adolescent marijuana use but a significant change in perception of ease of access. Public health workers and policymakers should continue to monitor these changes as essential for evaluating the impact of liberalization of marijuana policies.

Keywords: Adolescent; legislation, drug; marijuana; youth surveys.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Child
  • Colorado
  • Commerce / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marijuana Use / economics
  • Marijuana Use / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Marijuana Use / psychology*
  • Marijuana Use / trends*