Skip to main content

College Students' Marijuana Use Rises in Legalization States

January 15, 2020

The latest analysis of the impact of recreational marijuana legalization initiatives on substance use among young people has found an ongoing pattern of increased marijuana use among college students in legalization states.

According to findings published this week in the journal Addiction, college students in states that had legalized recreational use of marijuana by 2018 were 18% more likely than students in other states to have engaged in past-month marijuana use. These students also were 17% more likely to be frequent users of marijuana (defined as use on at least 20 of the past 30 days).

Moreover, this gap between marijuana use in legalization and non-legalization states widened over time, the researchers at Oregon State University found. Six years after legalization in the earliest-adopting states, college students were 46% more likely to be marijuana users.

David Kerr, who works at in the university's College of Liberal Arts, said the results are noteworthy in that they differ from recent findings of no increase in marijuana use among adolescents following legalization initiatives. “So it is surprising and important that these young adults are sensitive to this law,” Kerr said.

Another Oregon State study, published in November in Addictive Behaviors, found that students ages 21 and older in recreational marijuana legalization states showed a greater decline in binge drinking than their peers in non-legalization states.

Back to Top