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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Oregon State: Study Finds College Students Use More Marijuana in States Where It’s Legal, But They Binge Drink Less

Marijuana use among college students has been trending upward for years, but in states that have legalized recreational marijuana, use has jumped even higher.

An Oregon State University study published in Addiction shows that in states where marijuana was legalized by 2018, both occasional and frequent use among college students has continued to rise beyond the first year of legalization, suggesting an ongoing trend rather than a brief period of experimentation.

Overall, students in states with legal marijuana were 18 percent more likely to have used marijuana in the past 30 days than students in states that had not legalized the drug. They were also 17 percent more likely to have engaged in frequent use, defined as using marijuana on at least 20 of the past 30 days.

The differences between states with and without legalization escalated over time: Six years after legalization in early-adopting states, students were 46 percent more likely to have used marijuana than their peers in non-legalized states.

Between 2012 and 2018, overall usage rates increased from 14 percent to 17 percent in non-legalized states, but shot up from 21 percent to 34 percent in the earliest states to legalize the drug. Similar trends appeared in states that legalized marijuana more recently.

Conducted by Dr. Harold Bae from Oregon State University College of Public Health and Human Sciences and David Kerr from OSU’s College of Liberal Arts, this is the first study of college students to look broadly at multiple states that have legalized recreational marijuana and to go beyond the first year following legalization.

It includes data from seven states and 135 colleges where marijuana was legalized by 2018 and from 41 states and 454 colleges where recreational use was not legal.

Additional findings

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