Some Routt County teens concerned about impact of marijuana legalization
January 20, 2014
Steamboat Springs — As adults continue to line up to buy their first bags of recreational marijuana here in Steamboat Springs, many teenagers in Routt County quietly are wondering how this new age of pot sales could affect them.
"The students are concerned about their friends, and they do see people using marijuana," said Kate Elkins, director of Routt County’s Grand Futures Prevention Coalition, as she talked about the recent one-on-one meetings her drug and alcohol prevention group has had with local high school students. "I think they think everyone is using it, and that’s not the case. But from what I heard lately from some Teen Council kids is they are concerned and they know marijuana can have an impact on youth."
She said some students have seen some of their friends become less interested in schoolwork while using drugs.
Students also have seen their peers pressured into using it because they’re told it’s a "cool" and socially acceptable thing to do.
Will the sale of recreational marijuana to teenagers amplify these situations?
Elkins and other youth advocates may have to wait until the fall of 2015 to find out.
That’s when teenagers here will be surveyed about their drug and alcohol behavior for the first time since marijuana’s legalization.
The last time they were quizzed, about 40 percent of the students surveyed in Routt County said they had tried marijuana at least once.
"The new survey will be really telling," Elkins said.
In the meantime, Grand Futures is working as hard as ever to inspire youths to steer clear of drugs and alcohol.
"We’re going to be reading about this in the history books," Elkins said about marijuana legalization. "And I think it makes my job even more important to be reaching as many parents, teachers, coaches and youth as I can and to inspire them to be the best they can be. They don’t need alcohol, drugs and marijuana to lead a great life."
Elkins said upcoming educational campaigns from Grand Futures will focus on educating parents.
Topics that will be discussed include ensuring drugs and alcohol are not accessible to teens and talking to children about how they perceive drug use.
"They’re proven to be the No. 1 influence on a child’s life," Elkins said about parents.
Since its founding, Grand Futures primarily has focused on curbing underage drinking.
Today, alcohol still remains the drug of choice among teens, and the most recent survey of Steamboat high school students revealed marijuana use was on the decline.
But now that recreational marijuana is being sold in Steamboat, there is some concern that use among teens could rise as the drug becomes more easily available.
The concerns stem from a new era during which older siblings can buy pot and give it to teenagers, and students can "shoulder tap" to get someone older to buy the product for them.
"I don’t think anybody has a crystal ball to say marijuana use is going to skyrocket because of the new laws, but any reasonable person can anticipate a higher use of marijuana consumption per capita based on the public availability of it," Steamboat Police Chief Joel Rae said a few days before marijuana went on sale to adults here. "We just want people to be responsible."
Rae said that one of the biggest focuses of the police department will be to ensure marijuana does not fall into the hands of anyone younger than 21 years old.