Colorado residents 21 and older have been allowed to legally use marijuana for recreational purposes since 2012, so it is worthwhile to look at how legalization has impacted the use of marijuana in the state, and what the effects of legalization have been on the state as a whole.
Under-21 Use Is Higher Than States Without Legal Marijuana
One impact of legalizing marijuana in Colorado has been that more teens 12-17 and young adults 18-24 report using marijuana than in states where it has not been legalized. While the rates of use for 12-17-year-olds went down below 10 percent in 2016, they were still 34 percent higher than the national average. About a third of 18-24-year-olds reported use, which is 70 percent higher than the national average.
The good news in the latest data may be that education programs in schools about the risks and dangers of using marijuana under the age of 21, when critical brain development is still taking place, may be starting to impact teen use. Whether this trend will continue is difficult to determine, however.
Impaired Driving and Emergency Room Visits Have Increased
Both the rates of impaired driving and emergency room visits related to marijuana have increased sharply since marijuana became legal. Traffic deaths where the driver tested positive for marijuana increased 66 percent since legalization, and marijuana-related emergency room visits increased 72 percent. In fact, 70 more people died in marijuana-related car accidents in 2016 than in 2013, and more than 4,000 more had visits to the emergency room in 2015 than did so in 2012.
Marijuana Exposure More Than Doubled Since Legalization
One effect of marijuana legalization is that some people will be accidentally exposed to the drug, sometimes through secondhand smoke and sometimes through edibles that they do not realize contain the drug. Marijuana exposure rates more than doubled since legalization, and the unfortunate fact is, many of those accidentally exposed are children who find an edible that looks like a brownie, cookie, or candy, and consume it when parents are not watching.
While accidental exposure is unlikely to produce addiction to the substance, it can make people, especially children, feel sick and lead to vomiting, lethargy, and other symptoms that can occasionally be dangerous, like slowed breathing.
Treatment for Marijuana Addiction and Abuse
According to a government study, the rates of treatment for marijuana addiction or abuse have remained stable since it was legalized, which seems to indicate that recreational use does not necessarily lead to greater levels of addiction and abuse. While some can use marijuana recreationally without abusing the drug, others find themselves becoming dependent on it to help them relax or make them forget about things in their lives they want to avoid.
If you or any of your loved ones struggle with abuse or addiction to marijuana, there is help available from Recovery Village at Palmer Lake, a Colorado drug rehab facility. Learn about admissions to Recovery Village and find out how to get your life back from marijuana abuse or addiction.