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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Colorado: Youth Survey Finds Marijuana Use Unchanged Since Legalization

The 2015 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, the state’s only comprehensive survey on the health, well-being and resiliency of young people in Colorado, shows high school students are less likely to engage in risky behaviors if they have a trusted adult in their lives.


The survey shows marijuana use has not increased since legalization in Colorado, with four of five high school students continuing to say they don’t use marijuana, even occasionally. Alcohol use continues to decline, with nearly seven of 10 saying they had not used alcohol in the past 30 days. And nine of 10 Colorado high school youth say they don’t smoke cigarettes, the highest rejection of smoking by high school youth in the past decade.

The healthy kids survey shows parents and guardians are the most important influence on a young person’s health and well-being. If a parent feels it’s wrong to use marijuana, their children are four times less likely to use marijuana. If a parent feels it’s wrong to smoke cigarettes, their children are six times less likely to smoke cigarettes. And if a parent feels it’s wrong to drink alcohol regularly, their children are three times less likely to binge drink.

For all major categories of substances, Colorado’s middle school and high school students were consistent with national averages in 30-day and lifetime use.

The voluntary, biannual survey is directed by a collaboration of the state departments of Health and Environment, Education, and Human Services, the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, and a community advisory committee. It collects information on a wide range of health behaviors and in 2015 included approximately 17,000 students from 157 middle and high schools in Colorado.

Dr. Ashley Brooks-Russell, assistant professor of community and behavioral health at Colorado is the survey’s project director, and said that public and private organizations across Colorado use the survey’s state and regional health data to identify trends and enhance school and community-based programs that improve the health and well-being of young people.

While this survey continues to show progress among Colorado young people in making healthy choices, it also reveals health disparities in some areas of Colorado. The health department works with other state agencies and local communities to provide data and share proven practices aimed at ensuring all young Coloradans have access to caring adults, safe neighborhoods, high-quality schools and inclusive health care.

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