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Marijuana use trends among college students in states with and without legalization of recreational use: initial and longer-term changes from 2008 to 2018

With legalization of recreational marijuana across the United States, the effects and impact on young adults is still not well known. The current study uses data from the National College Health Assessment II to look at students from multiple institution in multiple states with recreational marijuana legalization (RML). The researchers hypothesize that 30-day marijuana use will be higher in the states where it has been legalized and want to see how prevalence would change after several years.

The surveys used in this study where completed over 12 academic years throughout 48 states where 1-60 post-secondary institutions participated. The final sample used for this study included seven states with ‘ever-RML states’ including 234,669 participants from 135 institutions and 41 non-RML states including 599,605 participants from 454 institutions. Measures included marijuana use in the past 30 days including frequency, recreational marijuana legalization, number of years since legalization, and demographics including other covariates. 

Researchers found that there was a positive association between RML and 30-day marijuana use. Students that attended an institution in a state that recreational marijuana had been legalized had 23% increased odds of use. They also found that there was a positive association between RML and frequency of marijuana use. Finally, the results showed that the RML had an escalated effect in the subsequent years for marijuana use and frequency. These results show that young adults attending institutions in states where recreation marijuana is legalized may be at an increased risk for misuse along with negative consequences from marijuana use.

Take Away: The current study looks at students from multiple institutions in multiple states with recreational marijuana legalization (RML). The final sample included seven states with ‘ever-RML states’ including 234,669 participants from 135 institutions and 41 non-RML states including 599,605 participants from 454 institutions. Measures included marijuana use, recreational marijuana legalization, number of years since legalization, and demographics. Researchers found that there was a positive association between RML and 30-day marijuana use. They found a positive association between RML and frequency of marijuana use. These results show that young adults attending institutions in states where recreation marijuana is legalized may be at an increased risk for marijuana use and negative consequences.

Bae, H., & Kerr, D. C. R. (2020). Marijuana use trends among college students in states with and without legalization of recreational use: initial and longer‐term changes from 2008 to 2018. Addiction. doi: 10.1111/add.14939

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