Cannabis and youth protection in Colorado's commercial adult-use market

December 2019
Subritzky, T., Lenton, S. and Pettigrew, S. (2019). Cannabis and youth protection in Colorado's commercial adult-use market: A qualitative investigation. International Journal of Drug Policy, 74, pp. 116-126. DOI: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2019.09.007

Introduction: Arguments both for and against the legalization of cannabis often include the issue of youth protection. At the time of writing 5-years after the implementation of the Coloradan recreational cannabis market (CRCM), no statistically significant increase in consumption had been identified. This paper aimed to provide a thick descriptive account of youth prevention objectives stipulated in the pre-implementation phase of the CRCM and compare these with the real-world experience of regulators and other stakeholders involved with market implementation.

Methodology and Methods: A qualitative descriptive methodology was used that involved the following methods: document analysis, deductive coding, thematic analysis, and thick description. Two data sets relevant to youth protection in the context of a legal cannabis market in Colorado were examined. Data set 1 (DS1) examined government documents (n = 13) related to the pre-implementation phase from November 2012 - December 2013. Data set 2 (DS2) consisted of semi-structured face-to-face interviews conducted with key stakeholders (n = 32) in 2016 and 2017.

Results: Five themes emerged including advertising restrictions (DS1), education (DS1), appropriation of funds (DS2), impact assessment (DS2), and evolving messages in prevention education campaigns (DS2).

Discussion: Multiple lessons for other jurisdictions were highlighted in the study.