Tuesday, January 14, 2020

College Students in States With Legalized Marijuana Report Greater Use of Drug

College students in states where recreational use of marijuana is legal appear to be using marijuana more frequently than peers in states where such use is not legal, according to a report in Addiction.

“Identifying whether [recreational marijuana legalization] affects different patterns of use is important from the perspectives of policy evaluation and prevention implications,” wrote Harold Bae, Ph.D., and David C. R. Kerr, Ph.D., of Oregon State University. “The present findings suggest that [recreational marijuana legalization] may increase the likelihood of patterned marijuana use… .”

Bae and Kerr analyzed the responses of undergraduates aged 18 to 26 to the National College Health Assessment survey between 2008 and 2018. This anonymous survey asks students about a variety of issues, including mental and sexual health as well as alcohol, tobacco, and substance use. Specifically, Bae and Kerr were interested in how students responded to questions about the number of times they used marijuana in the past 30 days and whether these responses varied according to marijuana laws in the states where the students attended college.

The final sample included 234,669 students who attended 135 college in seven U.S. states where recreational use of marijuana was legalized, and 599,605 students who attended 454 colleges in 41 states where recreational use was not legal. The researchers found that students who attended college in states where recreational use of marijuana is legal were 23% more likely to report marijuana use than students in states where such use is not legal. The students in states with legal recreational marijuana were 18% more likely than those in states where such use is not legal to report frequent marijuana use—defined as using marijuana on at least 20 of the past 30 days.

Additional analysis revealed that the effects of legalized marijuana were stronger among students who were female, 21 and older, and resided off campus.

“Only more granular studies of the local nuances of how [recreational marijuana legalization] is implemented can fully illuminate these laws’ impacts and what adjustments will be needed to promote public health,” Bae and Kerr wrote. “Nevertheless, even using blunt tools, we find support for a general conclusion that college students … are reacting to [recreational marijuana legalization].”

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Legalization of Marijuana Could Lead to Public Health Concerns, Study Suggests.”

(Image: iStock/seb_ra)

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