Cannabis use among college students in legalized states is on the rise but binge drinking rates for college students are down in those same states, according to an Oregon State University study published in the journal Addiction.
Students in states with legal cannabis were 18 percent more likely to have used cannabis in the past 30 days than students in non-legal states; they were also 17 percent more likely to have engaged in frequent use, defined as cannabis use on at least 20 of the past 30 days. Six years after legalization in early-adopting states, college students were 46 percent more likely to have used cannabis than their peers in states without adult-use cannabis access.
From 2012 to 2018, overall cannabis usage rates increased from 14 percent to 17 percent in non-legalized states; in the earliest states to legalize cannabis, those rates were 21 percent to 34 percent, the study found.
Using the same dataset, the researchers found that after legalization, binge-drinking rates for students 21 and older showed a greater drop than their peers in states where cannabis remains illegal. Binge drinking was defined in the study as having five or more drinks in a single sitting within the previous two weeks.
OSU doctoral candidate Zoe Alley, who worked on a companion study, said that legalization changes the dynamic of what substances students choose to consume.
“When you’re under 21, all substances are equally illegal. In most states, once you reach 21, a barrier that was in the way of using alcohol is gone, while it’s intact for marijuana use.” – Alley, in a statement
The data for the studies come from the National College Health Assessment survey from 2008 to 2018. More than 850,000 students participated in the survey which asks about a wide range of health behaviors including drug and alcohol use and is administered anonymously to encourage students to respond more honestly.
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