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Debunking Sabet: The New Stoned Colorado Kids Misdirection

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Debunking Sabet: The New Stoned Colorado Kids Misdirection

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Part Two of an extended post… See Part One, The Dead Stoned Drivers Fallacy.

The so-called “quarterback of the anti-legalization movement,” Kevin Sabet, is taking his reefer madness dog-and-pony show to the United Nations’ 61st Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna.

Sabet and his organization, Project SAMUEL*, are holding a seminar on March 15 entitled, “Cannabis Legalization Five Years Later: What Have We Learned?”

The flier for the event was forwarded to me by a friend attending the commission in Vienna. Here’s what Kevin Sabet and his partners will be claiming about the effects of marijuana legalization. I’ll provide the factual rebuttals, in case anyone in Vienna can use them.

“Colorado is now the #1 state in the US for for first time youth marijuana users.”

Sabet had to go a long way to find a statistic in a legal state that made legalization look bad for kids.

For the past three years, he’s had to watch with dismay as national news media explained how “the rate of adolescent marijuana use in Colorado has fallen to its lowest level in nearly a decade” and how “fewer Washington adolescents are using marijuana since recreational pot sales began in 2014.”

However, the National Survey on Drug Use & Health’s 2015-2016 data (Table 5) do show that 3.84 percent of Colorado’s population aged 12 and older will try marijuana for the first time. That figure leads the nation, with Alaska (3.56) and Vermont (3.08) as the only states above 3 percent.

Here Sabet is using a trick I like to call “stat in a vacuum.” It’s a technique where you find one data point that makes your opponent’s case look bad and omitting all other context that actually proves your opponent’s case.

Based on that data point, yes, Colorado leads the nation in first-time youth marijuana use, so long as you define “youth” as “population aged 12 and older.” Like, all the way to age 100.

If you look at the rest of the table, you’ll find for ages 18 and older, Colorado’s got a 2.99 percent rate, the only state near 3 percent.

If you narrow it down to ages 18-25, Colorado’s rate is 15.97 percent, with the next-closest state (Vermont) coming in at 12.40 percent.

In other words, a large degree of Colorado leading the nation for ages 12 and older is due to more Colorado adults taking up pot these days.

Now, to be fair, Colorado’s rate for ages 12 to 17 is at 7.74 percent, second in the nation. This is where context is important.

In the year prior, Colorado’s rate for ages 12 to 17 was 8.16 percent.

The year prior to that, Colorado’s rate for ages 12 to 17 was 9.13 percent.

In other words, while there is still a substantial percentage of kids who are trying pot for the first time in Colorado, that rate has been decreasing since legalization.


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