Last week, Billy J. Williams, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon, wrote an opinion piece in The Oregonian, in which he argued that legalization of recreational cannabis negatively impacts public health. In support of his argument, Mr. Williams offered up the experience of Colorado (where voters approved legalization of recreational cannabis in 2012) as a cautionary tale, stating, “youth marijuana use is up 12 percent” in Colorado since it legalized recreational cannabis. However, Mr. Williams did not cite to any source to support this rather specific claim, leaving us to wonder where exactly this U.S. Attorney has been harvesting his statistics.
Indeed, as reported by The Denver Post last month, a study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics found the percentage of Colorado teens who said they had used marijuana in the past month statistically unchanged between the pre-legalization years of 2010 to 2012 and the post-legalization years of 2013 to 2015. And in a separate study published last month, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found an over 2% decline in marijuana use among Colorado teens between the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 time periods. (Legal sales of recreational cannabis began in Colorado in January 2014.)
Mr. Williams, who was recently nominated to remain as U.S. Attorney by President Trump, appears to have access to data – or something else – that the rest of us do not, and until he’s ready to share what he has, he should consider toning down his rhetoric.