Diane Carlson

Diane Carlson

Five years after the debut of recreational marijuana commercialization in Colorado, it’s time for our state to take the next step to protect kids. 

A growing body of scientific research highlights the various ways marijuana harms youth:

  • Teen marijuana use is associated with significant increases in the risk of depression and suicidal thoughts in adulthood, according to a new study.
  • Among Colorado teens there have been significant increases in dabbing and edible use, according to a state panel.  Those marijuana products are known for ultra-high potencies of THC, marijuana’s main psychoactive ingredient.
  • Substantial evidence shows that marijuana use among adolescents and young adults is associated with addiction while daily or near daily use significantly raises the risk of future psychotic disorders like schizophrenia, the same panel reported.

With this increasingly clear evidence of risks to youth, all Coloradans, including the multibillion-dollar marijuana industry, should be able to agree that increased protections for kids are needed. 

The current legislative session provides a unique opportunity to do just that. The Colorado General Assembly is required under the state’s sunset-review process to reassess the regulation systems for medical and recreational marijuana. This provides an important opportunity to address troubling regulatory gaps that expose children to harm. 

For starters, Colorado should require and compile an accurate, publicly available web-based inventory of all products on the market.Today’s marijuana products look nothing like the marijuana parents and other adults may remember from their youth. 

In just the recreational market, we’re seeing high-THC products that look like asthma relief inhalers, powders that can be dissolved in water bottles or sprinkled on food, and even suppositories. (See THCphotos.org for examples of products we bought in Colorado.)

At a recent panel discussion, a Colorado sheriff’s deputy described how hard it is for officers in schools to identify some of these new products.  It’s equally hard for parents to spot these hidden forms of THC in their kids’ bedrooms or backpacks.

A product inventory will help adults at the very least know what they’re dealing with.

The state should also require the training of marijuana sales people so they can accurately discuss today’s products, including rapidly growing THC potencies, the implications of different ways of consuming, and recommended dosing including what leads to impairment.

This would, for example, help ensure that pregnant and breastfeeding women are informed about the demonstrated risks to their babies.

The state notes that marijuana exposure in pregnancy is associated with decreased cognitive function and attention problems in childhood.

Yet, a study released last year by doctors at Denver Health and the University of Colorado School of Medicine reported that employees at an overwhelming majority of marijuana stores in Colorado recommended treating pregnancy-related nausea with the drug.If the folks behind the counter don’t know the health impacts of what they are selling, how will consumers know?   

The state also can play a role in clearing up the ongoing confusion between medical vs. recreational marijuana.

Today’s youth, who have grown up in an era of marijuana legalization, are understandably confused about whether marijuana is healthy or a risk to their brains.These kids hear about the potential benefits of non-psychoactive CBD —  endorsed recently by Denver Broncos great Terrell Davis — and may not understand that THC from the same plant can harm them.

Medical marijuana is especially confusing. How could something that’s “medical” be harmful?  Worse, because 18-to-20-year-olds, including enterprising high school seniors, can get medical marijuana cards. this medical marijuana is more likely to be diverted into schools. 

Colorado kids rely on adults — their parents, educators and policymakers — to keep them safe. It’s time for us to step up to protect them. 

Diane Carlson is a mom and co-founder of Smart Colorado. Learn more at NotTheSamePot.org.

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