One of the biggest arguments that prohibitionists constantly bring up when fighting legalization activists is the “what about the children?” bit. While it’s true that we should take children into consideration – not advertising to children and punishing those who might give them cannabis, for example – the truth is that a regulated market is safer, even for children, than an unregulated one.
Denver has figured out what we should have already known, which is you must supply teens with facts when it comes to a substance like cannabis. After legalizing cannabis, Colorado put a great deal of effort toward prevention through education to keep teens from using cannabis – and as it turns out, according to the results of a recent survey it’s working.
“Teens want facts and they want to be able to make their own decisions,” said Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock. “When we give teens the facts and equip them with knowledge, they make smarter choices about using marijuana.”
The survey, conducted by Insights Lab, was commissioned to determine whether Denver’s “High Cost” campaign (launched in 2017) has been successful thus far. With a survey of more than 500 teens from Denver and about 56,000 youth statewide, researchers found that for the first time in years, Colorado’s number of teens who use cannabis has dropped below the national average.
While the national average is 20 percent, Denver now has only 19 percent of teens claiming that they use marijuana. When determining if the campaign had influenced this, it was found that 64 percent of those surveyed said they were aware of the campaign, most seeing ads on Facebook and YouTube.
Seventy-five percent of those who saw the ads said that the campaign had discouraged them from using marijuana in some way. However, of those who admitted to using marijuana, it was no surprise that the campaign didn’t change their minds about it.
“This audience is going to be difficult to reach, as they’ve already decided to use and naturally are going to reject information that contradicts their decision,” the report states. “For now, focus on the core audience of non-users and past-users, and evaluate the opportunity to target this segment again in a year.”
Colorado has always had a higher than average number of teens who admitted cannabis use either occasionally or regularly. It has been seven years since cannabis was legalized, five since retail sales began, and two since the High Costs campaign went into effect and began advertising on billboards, school bus signs, online and in the form of an online game show. And due to all these efforts, the state has finally seen a payoff and their teen use rate drop below the national average.
If that doesn’t suggest that legalization and education is a safer avenue than prohibition, even for teens and young adults, then I don’t know what does.