Statement on House Bill 21-1317 addressing teen marijuana use (May 18, 2021)
The rise of teenage use of high-THC-concentration marijuana presents a critical public health threat that demands action. Consider, for example, that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Healthy Kids Colorado Survey found that youth dabbing—a way of accessing higher levels of THC content—rose from 4.3% in 2015 to 20.4% in 2019. House Bill 1317 reflects an important and critical response to this threat.
The Substance Abuse Trend and Response Task Force, which my department chairs, has focused on this issue and identified a troubling trend—one addressed by this legislation—that medical marijuana laws are enabling teen access to high potency marijuana. As we in Colorado work to continue to develop and refine the regulatory program for overseeing legal cannabis, it is critical that we do so in a manner that protects kids.
I want to thank all of those who devoted so much time and effort to achieve this solution, starting with Speaker Alec Garnett, Representative Yadira Caraveo, and Senators Paul Lundeen and Chris Hansen. This effort represents Colorado problem-solving at its best—legislators working with community members, public health professionals, and cannabis industry leaders to develop an evidence-based, thoughtful policy measure.
To be sure, there remain areas for improvement in this bill and in how we regulate marijuana, including addressing the risk of high THC potency hemp-based products. Our department will continue to work with the stakeholders and sponsors to further improve this bill and Colorado’s regulation of marijuana. As we do so, we do not take for granted what got us here today—a strong civic spirit and a sense of social responsibility that when we work together collaboratively and creatively, we can address important public policy issues. Thank you all for doing just that.