According to the latest report released by Healthy Kids Colorado, use of highly potent marijuana products such as dabs and vapes has skyrocket since marijuana was first legalized for recreational use 6 years ago. The prevalence of dabbing among high school students increased dramatically in the past two years with over 50% of students who reported marijuana use in the past 30 days reporting that they dabbed it. Dabs are concentrated doses of marijuana that are made by extracting THC using a solvent like butane, resulting in sticky oils that are are typically heated on a hot surface and then inhaled through a dab rig.

Equally alarming is the 69% increase in marijuana vaping among high school students over the past two years. Like dabs, vaping products are extremely potent. However, the similarities end there–vaping devices are usually no bigger than USB drives and are easily concealed. No combustion occurs while marijuana is vaped so no strong odor is produced. This enables students to vape marijuana anywhere—including school—without fear of detection.

In addition to the large increases in dabbing and vaping among teens, more and more youth are getting behind the wheel after consuming these high potency THC products. According to data released by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the number of teens who reported driving after using marijuana has gone from 9% in 2017 to 32% in 2020, an increase of 360%.

The harmful effects of marijuana use on adolescents are well-documented and include poor academic performance, increased risk of mental health issues, impaired driving, and increased risk of addiction. The truly frightening thing is that most of the research on the harms of adolescent marijuana use is based on lower potency marijuana. It is still largely unknown the full extent of damage that will be wreaked upon young lives (and wider society) by these ultra-potent marijuana products.

For the sake of profit, the marijuana industry has recruited the youth of Colorado to be unwitting participants in a large-scale natural experiment–an experiment that will only too soon demonstrate the effects of highly concentrated THC on the adolescent brain along with the ensuing public health fallout. The industry assured us that adequate safeguards would be in place to ensure that legal marijuana would stay out of the hands of our youth. Clearly that has not been the case.