The Surprising Effect of Marijuana Legalization on College Students

Marijuana Legalization

With marijuana legalization on the rise, the demand for marijuana and marijuana related products is set to increase. Researchers estimate that the current marijuana market is in the region of $50 Billion, with the majority of this figure taken up by black market sales. The legalization of marijuana will no doubt shift most if not all of the black market sales over to legitimate industries. The benefits of marijuana are well backed up by scientific literature, and marijuana can help with the treatment of conditions including arthritis, insomnia, depression, anxiety and much more.

Recreational weed is currently legal in 8 states, while medical weed is legal in 29. In the states where recreational weed  is legal it can only be obtained from vendors who have licenses to sell it. In the states where medical marijuana is legal cannabis can only be smoked if the user has a medical card, indicating that the weed is necessary to treat certain symptoms. The States where recreational weed  is legal include Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, California and Alaska.

College Students and Marijuana

There is a strange relationship between the legalization of marijuana and college students. A study conducted in Oregon (where recreational cannabis  is legal) found that after Oregon initially legalized marijaua for recreational use, it’s use did go up, but mainly by college students who also binge drank. What this would seem to indicate is that in Oregon, legalization actually did not make that much a difference in terms of consumption, except among a group that already had a somewhat irrational attitude towards drugs anyway, in that they drank excessively. The report was published in the Addiction journal and noted that Oregon students who binge drank were 73% more likely to partake in recreational cannabis  after legalization. Lead author of the study David Kerr stated that:

“Those who binge drink may be more open to cannabis  use if it is easy to access… Whereas those who avoid alcohol for cultural or lifestyle reasons might avoid cannabis  regardless of its legal status”

The study looked into weed  use by over 10,900 students from one Oregon university and 6 other universities. The 6 other universities were in states where recreational weed use was not legal. Use of marijuana was significantly greater on Oregon where recreational marijuana was legalized. Despite the fact that the legal age for marijuana consumption is 21, in Oregon younger students use the drug more than older students.

What is interesting is that this study and many more are finding that the legalization of weed  is not serving as a substitute for other forms of drugs and addictions, as has been predicted. It would seem that those who are already predisposed towards drugs will merely take marijuana along with what they are currently taking. The idea that marijuana will replace other harmful drugs in society is being revealed to be a myth, at least in terms of alcohol for teenagers. Teenagers are simply doing both. More studies are needed to indicate whether this is also the case for adults, however at first glance this may seem unlikely.

It could well be simply a phase that the teenagers are going through and as they get older they may decide to give up alcohol or marijuana instead of doing both. It is mostly a social phenomenon where it is seen as stylish to smoke marijuana, at least to those who already binge drink. And the opposite is the case for those who are more orientated towards “clean” lifestyles, where a drug is a drug and both alter the brain.

It is more plausible that weed  will still be an effective replacement for smoking cigarettes, as the habit is more similar and delivers more of a hit with far less tobacco, and in future we can expect the tobacco to be much cleaner. And smoking is arguably a much more detrimental habit to public health than alcohol. It is not known exactly why those students who already binge drink are predisposed to taking weed . Possibly because they are bigger risk takers or perhaps because they are less religious.

The study is somewhat premature. While most will avoid consuming the cannabis in its first year or legalization, it goes without saying that as the years go by the legalization of the product is bound to make more people try the substance and stemming from this make it a lifetime habit.

The Best of Both Worlds

It is interesting that those who are already against taking drugs for lifestyle or other reasons are not simply taking marijuana because it is legal. This indicates that the populace is able to make up their own minds on the matter instead of mindlessly consuming a drug just because it happens to be legal. It also indicates the perfect balance, in that those who wish to take advantage of cannabis are not precluded from doing so, and those who wish to avoid the substance for their own reasons do not feel pressured into consuming it.

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