When it comes to the United States and marijuana, Utah is often the last state that comes to mind. With strict liquor laws and strong ties to the Mormon church, the Beehive State is still a far cry from legalization. But as prohibition continues, Utah’s teens are apparently beginning to embrace the sweet leaf.
According to Utah CBS affiliate KUTV, the state’s latest set or teen health surveys indicated a slight jump in cannabis use, and a spike in students who believe that cannabis is a relatively benign drug with little-to-no negative effects. For department of health and education officials, the new statistics are alarming, with some administrators suggesting that the pro-pot attitude adjustment is a direct result of legalization in neighboring states.
"They think it's not bad if it's legal. Plus, it's green, it's a plant. They have all these excuses, kids,” Pamella Bello, the Summit County Health Department Director of Behavioral Health Prevention, told KUTV.
Since states like Colorado, Washington, and Oregon legalized adult-use cannabis sales, a slew of state-specific and interstate studies have noted declines in teenage cannabis consumption. Additionally, established pot shops have introduced age limits and ID checks to cannabis purchases, which have done significant work in stopping underage purchases. Still, like Utah, a number of states have seen young people change their opinions on weed to be more considerate of medical use and less fearful of recreational use.
But while young people across Utah have taken a more progressive approach to pot than their past peers, their parents and teachers are still largely stuck in the past.
"Kids get it from you know their houses if they can find it,” Bello said, with no evidence offered to support her claim. “There are a lot more people selling it out there.”
Regardless of Utah’s prohibitionist vibes, the younger generation sees the value in drug reform. Once this generation of teens turns of age and gets a chance at the ballot box, don’t be surprised to see the traditionally conservative state go green like its West Coast neighbors.
Follow Zach Harris on Twitter