Tuesday, June 16, 2015
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this interesting new report showing the results of a statewide study funded by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. As this AP article, reports these basics (with my emphasis added):
Results from the 2014 survey were announced Monday. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment says that 13.6 percent of adults currently use pot. Of those, more than a third said they use pot every day. Almost half, 48.9 percent, said they’ve ever used pot. Adults with higher incomes and more education were more likely than others to have used marijuana.
To begin any analysis of this data, I think we must start by whether the data conclusively shows whether marijuana use truly has increased in Colorado recently as a result of legalization or whether just more current and former marijuana users feel more comfortable admitting in a government survey that they are marijuana users. In addition, there is reason to suspect a not-insignificant number of marijuana users moved into Colorado in the wake of its 2012 vote to legalize the drug, and such migration to a relatively low-population state could also move the numbers a bit here.
More important that unpacking the basics of this data is to integrating it with other critical public health data. Even if marijuana use has increased in Colorado significantly, I would be eager to know if there has been any corresponding significant change in illegal drug use patters, and well as in patterns of alcohol and tobacco use and abuse. Without such data (and lots more), I think it is nearly impossible to draw any definitive public health and safety conclusions from use survey data in the short term.