DENVER (CBS4) -- Two studies indicate the rate of marijuana usage by Colorado young people is relatively unchanged since 2015, and in fact mirrors the national average.
But a youth marijuana prevention agency warned the increase in potency of marijuana and cannabis products since the drug's legalization in 2014 poses equally increasing danger to its young users.
One in five Colorado kids use marijuana, according to data from the 2017 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey announced Thursday by the state health department. That is the same percentage as in 2013, before the drug became legal in Colorado.
Twenty percent was also the national average for youth marijuana usage.
Retail (adult-use) marijuana use is illegal in Colorado for those under age 21.
Research shows underage marijuana use can impair developing brains, according the the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
"Preventing young people from using marijuana is a statewide priority," said Gov. John Hickenlooper. "While youth use hasn't gone up, we are working hard to educate Colorado parents and their children about the health and legal risks of underage marijuana use."
The state credited its series of public health campaigns, initiated when marijuana was legalized, at educating Colorado's youth about marijuana's risks.
However, in a statement released Thursday, the executive director of Smart Colorado said "now is not the time to let our guard down."
Henny Lasley responded to the Helathy Kids survey by saying its data was "encouraging," but cautioned against reading too much into the rate of usage alone.
"It's especially concerning that the state reported statistically significant increases in youth who usually dab high-THC resin (known as "wax" or "shatter") or eat marijuana edibles," Lasley state. "These two intake methods can provide highly potent doses of marijuana's main psychoactive ingredient, which has been proven to harm growing brains."
Colorado's adults were surveyed separately. Marijuana use among Colorado's adults increased from 13.6 percent in 2016 to 15.5 percent in 2017, most significantly among 18- to 34-year-olds.
While the majority smokes it, the number of Colorado adults who eat or drink cannabis products increased 5 percent in one year.
The number of adults who reported driving while high (3 percent) remained unchanged.
"The marijuana market in Colorado is evolving," said Dr. Larry Wolk, health department executive director and chief medical officer. "Our job is to make sure those who choose to use marijuana, use it safely, legally and responsibly."
The Healthy Kids Colorado Survey of middle and high schools throughout the state, conducted every two years, is supported by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Colorado Department of Education, the Colorado Department of Human Services, and the Colorado Department of Public Safety. The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus administers the survey.
The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System is a telephone survey of adults that collects statewide data about residents regarding their health-related risk behaviors, chronic health conditions and use of preventive services.
for more features.