With schools everywhere letting out for summer vacation this week, a whole new set of high school graduates are readying themselves to leave the nest and move on to the world of higher education. But as those grads decide where they’ll be spending the next four years of their lives, the most important factor might not be successful sports teams or department faculty, but whether or not there’s legal weed nearby.
According to a new study from researchers at Oregon State University recently published in the journal Addiction, college students in Oregon have been smoking more weed since legalization took effect, and smoke at a significantly higher rate than students at schools in states where marijuana is still illegal.
The study looked at cannabis use trends at both private and public universities, examining six colleges in states still adhering to federal cannabis prohibition and one large public university in Oregon, where recreational cannabis use has been legal since 2015. All of the participating universities requested anonymity in return for the student data.
Using self-reported statistics from active undergraduate students in 2016, the study found that co-eds across the nation are using marijuana at a higher rate than they were at the time of the last major college cannabis study, a report from the University of Michigan using data from 2013-2015.
In Oregon, though, college students now have access to legal recreational marijuana, and have responded in the way you might imagine, with almost 26% of responding undergraduates reporting recent use.
In addition to the quarter of all undergrads toking up, the study also looked at the correlation between cannabis use and alcohol consumption, and found that binge drinking students in Oregon are 73% more likely to smoke weed than the same cohort in prohibition states. However, the researchers behind that particular study aren’t too quick to judge the cannabis users, though, and say the binge drinking stats speak more to the pervasive culture of alcohol abuse on the country’s campuses.
"Those who binge drink may be more open to marijuana use if it is easy to access, whereas those who avoid alcohol for cultural or lifestyle reasons might avoid marijuana regardless of its status," David Kerr, lead author of the study and associate psychology professor at OSU, said.
The study may seem like common sense for those of you that spent your college years hiding your stash from the RA and putting in Visine before class, but with legalization and attitudes towards pot relaxing across the nation, any increase in cannabis research is a benefit to an industry forced to operate in the shadows for decades.