Colorado’s Amendment 64, which aims to legalize marijuana for individuals over the age of 21, has garnered new opposition. The Colorado Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics Board of Directors voted to add their organization to an open letter warning of the risks that they believe passing Amendment 64 would create for children in Colorado.
The letter states, “Regardless of your feelings about marijuana, we, as pediatricians, feels it is important to know about how marijuana legalization can affect children and teenagers and the increased risks they could face if Amendment 64 passes.”
The pediatricians list a number of statistics about marijuana use in their letter, including that accidental marijuana ingestion by children has increased since medical marijuana collectives opened in Colorado in 2009. Between October 2009 and December 2011, 14 children ages 8 months-12 years were seen at Children’s Hospital in Colorado for accidental marijuana ingestion.
In the past, the American Academy of Pediatrics has stated that, “Any change in the legal status of marijuana, even if limited to adults, could affect the prevalence of use among adolescents.”
Directly contrasting this, however, are studies which have shown that there is no increased marijuana use among children and teens in states where medical marijuana has been legalized.
The adolescent marijuana use argument is one that has been used by politicians and physicians alike, with little research to actually back up the idea. Since no state has fully legalized marijuana, it is difficult to gauge the impact that legalization would have on children because there is no precedent.
That being said, after conducting a study of teen marijuana use in June 2012, professor Daniel Rees concluded that, “There is anecdotal evidence that medical marijuana is finding its way into the hands of teenagers, but there’s no statistical evidence that legalization increases the probability of use.”
Other pediatricians who opted to sign the letter opposing Amendment 64 include Claudia Kunrath, MD, Kathryn Wells, MD, and Kristine Knutti Rodrigues, MD.