A new study out of Colorado, the first state to legalize recreational marijuana, says that fewer teenagers are smoking weed as more begin to eat or vaporize it.
The study, published Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, drew on data from the state’s biennial health surveys from 2015 and 2017.
According to the study’s authors, smoking weed among teens dropped from 87 percent to 78 percent of respondents who said they consumed cannabis in 2015 and 2017, respectively. Meanwhile, teens who preferred marijuana-infused edibles jumped from 2 percent in 2015 to 10 percent in 2017. Teens who dabbed increased from 4 percent to 7.8 percent, the Associated Press reported.
“Since the implementation of retail marijuana sales, we haven’t seen an increase in use among youth but we are seeing a difference in how young people are consuming,” said Kayla Tormohlen, a PhD candidate at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the study’s lead author, to the Associated Press. “Understanding that can help to inform public health efforts.”
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So there hasn’t been an increase in more teens consuming cannabis in Colorado, they’re just changing their forms of consumption. Why, though? Teens are likely ditching weed-smoking in favor of what could be considered more health-conscious methods of consumption. Smoking cannabis produces toxic free radicals — the same kinds produced by tobacco smoke. However, vaping cannabis concentrates or dabbing produces far fewer free radicals than smoking does, and eating edibles doesn’t produce any free radicals at all.
The biggest category leap — for edibles — could indicate that teens are getting smarter about not getting caught with weed. Edibles don’t generate the strong, skunky smells associated with smoking a doob. Edibles can also be easily concealed alongside other foodstuffs, such as stashing them in a bag of candies, without raising suspicion.
Vaping or dabbing cannabis concentrates also does not usually produce marijuana’s characteristic odor.
According to David Abernathy, the vice president of data and government affairs at The Arcview Group, a cannabis analytics firm, adults are also moving away from smokeable weed products to other forms, such as vaping and edibles.
“We’ve seen that in states with a more competitive legal market, the illicit market has shrunk substantially,” Abernathy said. “And that’s the biggest thing we can do to keep cannabis out of the hands of teenagers.”
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