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Survey: Teens' Perception Of Marijuana As "Risky" Declining

Marci Krivonen

A new survey from the Colorado Department of Public Health shows fewer high school students think using marijuana is risky. The data reflects perceptions before recreational pot sales started at stores around the state in January. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen reports.

The Healthy Kids Colorado Survey shows the percentage of students who thought using marijuana was moderately or very dangerous declined from 58 percent in 2011 to 54 percent last year.

Researchers surveyed 40,000 randomly-selected students from more than two hundred middle and high schools across the state.

Doctor Larry Wolk is Chief Medical Officer for the Colorado Department of Public Health. He says he’s concerned the normalization of marijuana in Colorado could lead more young people to try it.

"That’s the risk here, is that now that it’s legalized for adult use that kids will somehow misinterpret that as something that’s less risky for them. And, marijuana for kids is really quite a bit different than it is for adults because it really does impact the developing brain."

Similar studies are done at the Aspen School District by the group Valley Partnership for Drug Prevention. Director Mike Connolly says he’s not surprised fewer kids’ around the state perceive marijuana as being risky or dangerous. Survey results in Aspen show the same thing.

"Anecdotally, in the classroom kids are saying it’s not dangerous. They’re kind of picking up on the ads that the Pro-64 campaign used that said it’s not as dangerous as alcohol," he says.

He says local results show the perception of risk among Aspen teenagers is even lower than statewide figures. The numbers could be different in the next round of results because the state and local data don’t reflect kids’ perceptions of pot after stores started selling it on January first.

The Healthy Kids Colorado Survey also looked at cigarette use among high school students, which continues to go down. Health officials attribute the drop in part, to awareness campaigns. Later this month, the state is launching a youth prevention campaign that encourages kids to avoid marijuana. Final state and regional results from the survey will be available this fall, here.

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