Wednesday, March 15, 2017

After legalization, Spokane teen pot use lowest it's been in at least a decade

Washington teen pot use numbers mostly unchanged

Posted By on Wed, Mar 15, 2017 at 4:24 PM

When weed was legalized in Washington state, opponents feared that making it widely available would increase use among teens.

But according to a new state survey, pot use among Washington teens has stayed about even since marijuana became available commercially in 2014. And in Spokane, the number of teens reporting marijuana use actually dipped lower than its been since at least 2006.

In 2016, 16 percent of Spokane County 10th-graders surveyed said they used marijuana within the previous 30 days, according to the Washington Health Youth Survey that was released today. That's four percentage-points lower than the 2006 number of 19 percent. Reported use among 10th-graders increased in 2008 to 21 percent, but in 2014 dipped back to 19 percent of teens reporting using marijuana.

Statewide, the percentage of students reporting marijuana use has remained steady since 2006. In 2016, 17 percent of 10th-graders statewide said they used marijuana, down 1 percent from 2014. For 12th-graders, 26 percent reported using marijuana, also down 1 percent from 2014.

For full survey results, look here.

Sarah Mariani, a behavioral health administrator with the Washington Department of Social and Health Services, says there was concern that pot use would increase statewide with legalization because the perception of risk among teens would go down.

"We weren't surprised [with these numbers]," she says. "We were glad it didn't go up, and we would like to get to a place where it can start to go down."

There were alarming trends that came out of the survey, according to the Washington Department of Social and Health Services. Fewer 8th graders see a "great risk" in using marijuana since the last survey. And more than half of 12th graders who reported marijuana use in the last 30 days said they had driven within three hours of using marijuana.

"Those pieces are concerning for us," Mariani says.

The Healthy Youth Survey is taken every two years. Over 230,000 students from 236 school districts in all Washington counties took part in the survey.

The results showing little to no change in youth pot use since legalization are in line with a study released last year by the Colorado health department. There, too, rates of marijuana use among teens were unchanged since it was legalized for adults in 2012.

Public health officials have stressed that marijuana is harmful to youth and adolescents and say it can lead to problems with learning and memory.

Mariani says it's key that parents understand how to prevent youth from using alcohol and other drugs. The website has tips for how to talk to teens.

A Spokane Regional Health District spokesperson did not respond to the Inlander's requests for comment today.

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Wilson Criscione

Wilson Criscione is the Inlander’s news editor. Aside from writing and editing investigative news stories, he enjoys hiking, watching basketball and spending time with his wife and cat.