College Students Binge Drink Less in States with Legal Weed, Study Finds
Oregon State University researchers found a significant decrease in binge drinking among college students 21 years and older in states with recreational cannabis.
Published on January 2, 2020

If your New Year’s resolution is to cut down on alcohol consumption during your next semester at college, it would probably help if you lived in a state with access to legal weed.

According to a new study from researchers at Oregon State University, published in the journal Addictive Behaviors, college students who attend school in states with recreational cannabis access are significantly less likely to binge drink.

The study looked at drinking tendencies and cannabis consumption from 2008 to 2018, and found a 5-13% decrease in binge boozing among students who attended colleges in states where adult-use cannabis was readily available. On a whole, the ten-year study referenced surveys completed by more than 1.1 million college students. 

“The biggest takeaway from our paper is that problem binge drinking in college students who are 21 and over changes after the implementation of recreational marijuana use,” Zoe Alley, a PhD student at Oregon State University and one of the study’s authors, told Global News.

In their conclusion, Alley and her co-authors hypothesized that the statistical shift was most likely due to age restrictions and accessibility. In states where weed is still illegal, college students over the age of 21 might turn to legal and accessible alcohol instead of risking legal trouble for buying or consuming cannabis from the black market. 

“Once you turn 21 in states without marijuana legalization, alcohol suddenly becomes very easy to come by, relatively speaking, so people might switch to that,” Oregon State psychology professor David Kerr told Global News. “In Oregon, there are lots of [cannabis] retail shops, and it’s advertised,” Kerr says. “We see it on billboards. The shops are very obvious in the way they are painted and displayed. It seems very available.”

And with new legal weed markets opening with a rapid pace, the study’s authors are hopeful that increased accessibility to cannabis could help cut down on binge drinking — as well as the ills that come from overconsumption.

“There are a lot of problems with binge drinking on college campuses — we’re talking about sexual assault, drunk driving, alcohol intoxication, and lethality,” Alley told Global News. “If you can get that to go down, that’s clearly good.”

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Zach Harris
Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.
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