Colorado Seeks Marijuana Users for First-Ever Online Health Survey

The 32-question anonymous online survey asks about frequency and type of marijuana use as well as demographic information, such as age, race and sex.

by Rachel Riley, The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) / August 19, 2016
University of Akron students team up to create a mobile device that will catch marijuana users under the influence. Ganja by Carlos Gracia, on Flickr

(TNS) -- A first-of-its-kind survey designed to gauge the habits of marijuana users has garnered hundreds of responses since it launched last month, bringing state officials halfway to their feedback goal.

More than 700 Coloradans have taken the Cannabis Users Survey on Health, also known by the acronym "CUSH" after a popular slang word for marijuana, since it launched July 20. Officials from the state Department of Public Health and Environment are hoping at least 1,500 marijuana users will take the survey, which is open until Oct. 31.

The 32-question anonymous online survey, which takes about 10 minutes to complete, asks about frequency and type of marijuana use as well as demographic information, such as age, race and sex, said Mike Van Dyke, chief of environmental epidemiology for the department.

"We want to talk to cannabis users. Are they vaping, are they smoking, are they dabbing, are they using edibles?" Van Dyke said. "There's a public health need to really understand how people are using marijuana and who's using it and how much they're using."

The department has been communicating with officials in states where recreational marijuana is legal -- Alaska, Oregon and Washington -- to design the list of questions, which make up the first state-administered survey targeting marijuana users.

In addition to advertising, representatives from the department are also attending a slew of events geared toward young people, from the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival in Denver to the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo, to seek out potential respondents to the survey.

While the Colorado Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System annual survey collects some data about what fraction of the population is using marijuana, the new survey is user specific and will give state officials a better idea of how casual use differs from heavy use among state residents - an important distinction when it comes to public health policy, especially given the research that asserts heavy users may be more at risk for mental health problems and respiratory issues, Van Dyke said.

"We don't really know, at this point, what the definition of heavy use is," he said. "We have guesses, but we really need the data to see what it really looks like."

Colorado law requires the government "monitor the health effects of marijuana," including "drug use patterns, broken down by county and race and ethnicity," but it's up to state officials to decide how to do so.

According to the most recently available results from the state's population-based survey, about 12 percent of El Paso County adult residents used marijuana in 2014, compared to a statewide average of 13.6 percent. The survey also found that certain population groups, such as younger people and men, as well as people with lower education levels and household incomes, were more likely to use marijuana.

Visit cushcolorado.com to submit a response.

©2016 The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.