Colorado Kids Affected By Marijuana Use


Payton Tanner

Colorado was among the first two states in the nation to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes in 2012.

Payton Tanner, Editor

 U.S.News recently released an article examining the vast effects that the legalization of marijuana has had on Colorado’s youth. This article reveals that the number of kids aged five and younger who have been exposed to marijuana has had a significant increase from 57 in 2017 to 151 in 2021. Exposures to marijuana among children aged 5 or younger are more likely to occur through accidentally ingesting an edible, rather than inhaling smoke or consuming the drug in another way. 

The addition of the 64th Amendment in the Colorado Constitution in November 2012 has forever changed the state and what it is known for. This amendment legalized the use of marijuana for adults over 21, which unintentionally opened the doors for the rise in marijuana exposure among the youth of Colorado. 

While Colorado is known for many things, including its beautiful mountains and various recreational activities, marijuana has been a key point added to this list, as it is one of the most prominent identifiers that many people use to describe Colorado. According to a survey conducted by, in 2019-2020, 27.27% of Coloradans have used cannabis in the last year, which places Colorado among the top five states in the nation with the highest percentage of cannabis usage.  

“Colorado means so much to me, as it is the place I was born and am growing up in. When I think of Colorado I think of so many fun memories from my childhood, and the good times I have had,” junior Rhys Mallory said. “When so many people think of Colorado, marijuana comes to mind, (which) kind of sucks because there is so much more to Colorado than just marijuana. ”

An article by the Defense Technical Information Center states that, since the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, there has been a noticeable decrease in the opioid overdose rate. While the legalization of marijuana has had some positive impacts on Colorado, it has also had some clear negative effects, specifically on Colorado’s youth.

While exposures to marijuana have risen among young children ever since marijuana was legalized in Colorado, there has also been an increase in the rates of Colorado teens who are experiencing exposures to marijuana. Many of these exposures are intentional and were happening before the legalization of marijuana, but the increase in availability has proven impactful in the rising rates of use.

If a youth in Colorado is caught trying to buy, carry, sell or use marijuana they can face a minor in possession charge. (Payton Tanner)

The use of marijuana among underage youth is also evident in schools. Each school may handle that problem differently, but the occurrence of a student coming to school under the influence of marijuana is not a rarity. 

“We have to kind of find it [marijuana] on them; somebody reports it, we smell it on them, or we see something that doesn’t make sense. Then we go to the nurse, and then the nurse can check that person out, and if the nurse says that they appear to be under the influence, then campus supervisors and the school staff will search them. If they find something, then I get involved, and they could get a ticket from me for minor in possession of drugs or drug paraphernalia,” Deputy Dave Bruening said.

The number of children exposed to marijuana in Colorado is only increasing, and as of now there are no impending reform efforts of the Colorado legislature to lower these numbers. Safety is a large concern for many when it comes to minors being in the same vicinity of marijuana.  Resources like Children’s Hospital Colorado and many others can provide parents and guardians with a guide on how to safely store marijuana at home so young children are not at risk.