Now that marijuana possession is legal in Colorado, parents of teenagers have less to worry about, right? Not so fast. The 2013 amendment that legalized marijuana possession for adults over age 21 didn't change any of the laws affecting youth under 21.
Juveniles under age 18 now account for a much higher proportion of those arrested for marijuana possession than before legalization, according to a March 2016 report by the Colorado Department of Public Safety. Here are some of the report's findings related to juveniles marijuana arrests:
- Between 2012 and 2014, total marijuana arrests decreased by 46%, but juvenile marijuana arrests increased by 5%. (Arrests for 18- to 20-year-olds declined by 33%.)
- During this period, the number of juvenile marijuana arrests increased by 29% for Hispanic/Latino youth and 58% for African-American youth but decreased by 8% for white youth.
- Between 2012 and 2014, the number of male juvenile arrests declined by 1%, while the number of female juvenile arrests increased by 26%.
- In 2014, juveniles accounted for over 48% of marijuana arrests, up from 25% in 2012.
At the same time, two surveys - the Health Kids Colorado Survey and the National Survey on Drug Use and Health - have shown that Colorado youth are becoming less likely to think marijuana poses a health risk.
It may be premature to draw too many conclusions from these early data, as the full effects of legalization have yet to be fully analyzed. But as marijuana retail establishments become increasingly visible across the state, Colorado parents may want to take advantage of the opportunity to talk to their kids about marijuana - and the potential consequences of possession and use.