Researchers have now found that legalization of marijuana has significantly increased the number of college-aged pot smokers, while significantly decreased the amount of alcohol they drink.
For their study, researchers from Oregon State University (OSU) analyzed data from a cross-sectional National College Health Assessment survey taken between 2008 and 2018 by undergraduate students aged between 18 and 26. In total, the study examined 234,669 students who lived in seven states that had enacted recreational marijuana legalization, alongside 599,605 students who lived in 41 states where marijauana was not legal for recreational use.
In the end, the researchers found that students living in states in which recreational marijuana usage was legalized were 18% more likely to have smoked within any given 30 days, as well as 17% more likely to do so frequently (on at least 20 of the 30 days) than students in states in which the drug remained illegal.
The researchers found that this number increased over time too. In states that had seen mariuana legalized for recreational usage for six years or more, they saw that students were 46% more likely to have smoked the drug than their peers in states where it remains illegal. In addition to this, the researchers found that pot-smoking was more common among older students aged between 21 and 26 than younger ones aged between 18 and 20.
Strikingly however, the researchers also found that in states where marijuana was legalized, consumption habits of alcohol changed too. Zoe Alley, an OSU doctoral candidate and the author of a companion study said, “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. But when marijuana is legal, this dynamic is changed...For marijuana we saw state-specific increases that went beyond the nationwide increases, whereas binge drinking was the opposite: a greater decrease in the context of nationwide decreases.”
A surprise for the investigators, especially as the same effect was seen among minors too, further research is needed to understand why this is the case, as well as to better understand the overall impact of marijuana legalization on consumption habits.