Coloradans know more about marijuana now than when it was legalized

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Mark Salley, Communications Director|303-692-2013|
DENVER - Recent evaluation results show that Colorado’s marijuana public education efforts have ensured more adults know the laws covering retail marijuana, more parents are planning to talk to their children about the risks of marijuana use, most young women know the danger of marijuana use during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and more young people know that using marijuana makes it harder to complete the tasks that help them reach their goals.
“We’re encouraged by the early success of Colorado’s marijuana education efforts,” said Dr. Larry Wolk, executive director and chief medical officer of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “We will continue to work with other state agencies, local public health, the marijuana industry and community groups to ensure the safe, legal and responsible use of marijuana.”
When voters approved the legalization of retail marijuana, the Legislature charged the department with developing prevention programs for youth use and educating Coloradans on the health effects of marijuana. Since 2014, the department’s Retail Marijuana Education Program has developed statewide media campaigns, online public education, community resources and events, training for health care providers and local public health support.
A new report published by the department highlights ongoing evaluation of these efforts and shows the changes in attitudes, knowledge and perceptions about marijuana laws and health effects.
After the initial launch of the health department’s Good to Know campaign, Colorado adults familiar with the campaign were 2.5 times more likely to know key marijuana laws, with marijuana users more knowledgeable than nonusers. Adult perceptions of the risks and health effects of marijuana use also increased significantly after the campaign. The number of those who knew the risks of driving after using marijuana increased 23 percent and those who realized daily use could impair memory increased 26 percent.
Health department education campaigns are available in English and Spanish. Marihuana en Colorado: Lo Que Debes Entender launched shortly after Good to Know to provide Spanish-speaking Coloradans with the information they need about retail marijuana laws and health effects. Today, three of four Spanish-speaking adults perceive high risk on all known health effects associated with marijuana use.
Young Coloradans are especially vulnerable to the negative legal and health effects of marijuana use. It is illegal for those under age 21 to purchase or use marijuana, and research shows marijuana use has negative effects on adolescent brain development. The health department developed a two-pronged approach to educating youth. It shows young people how marijuana use can get in the way of achieving their goals and gives parents and other trusted adults the tools they need to talk to youth about marijuana.
The department’s ongoing evaluation shows the number of adults prepared to talk to their children about the risks of using marijuana increased 12 percent since the campaign began. Young people familiar with the Protect What’s Next youth prevention campaign were more likely to agree that marijuana made it harder to think clearly and complete tasks.
Because marijuana has been shown to have negative health effects during pregnancy and breastfeeding, part of the education campaign focused on women of reproductive age. Today, nine of 10 of these women agree there are some risks of using marijuana during pregnancy.
Despite these early successes, Wolk said, there’s more work to do. The report shows marijuana users are much less likely to see the potential for addiction than nonusers. And parents who use marijuana are less likely to believe in the health risks of adolescent use.
Future campaign and educational outreach efforts launching in spring 2018 will focus on providing Colorado marijuana users and tourists with information they need to make safe and responsible decisions while continuing to reach youth and pregnant and breastfeeding women with messages about prevention.