(TMU) — The legalization of recreational marijuana in states across the U.S. is leading students to puff, puff, and pass on the booze.
A new study suggests that undergrad students in those states where cannabis is legal are smoking weed more and binge drinking less.
The Oregon State University study published this week in the journal Addiction found that legalization has blazed a trail for a steady increase of college-aged pot smokers—both frequent tokers and those who smoke only occasionally—who opt not to imbibe of booze at the Animal House rates of yesteryear.
The study looked at the smoking habits of college students aged 18 to 26. The researchers found that many students in states where the plant has been legalized are opting for cannabis over alcohol, meaning that cannabis smokers are “less likely to binge drink.” Researchers defined binge drinking as having five or more drinks in a single setting.
Students in states that have legalized cannabis were found to be 46 percent more likely to have smoked the sensimilla—a highly concentrated type of cannabis—than their peers who smoked six years prior during the prohibitionist era.
The study noted that the effect was more pronounced among students aged 21 to 26 rather than those aged 18 to 20. It added:
“In US states that enacted recreational marijuana legislation from 2012 to 2017 [such as Washington and Colorado], there was evidence for a general trend towards greater increases in marijuana use.”
The trend appears to be a reversal of the traditional rite of passage where students who reach the age of 21 take a turn toward aggressive boozing.
In a press release, Zoe Alley—an OSU doctoral candidate and author of a companion study—said:
“In most states, once you reach in a press release 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.”
The findings came as a surprise to the study’s authors who said that they need to further study why legalization has had this impact. Study author David Kerr said:
“It is surprising and important that these young adults are sensitive to this law. And it’s not explained by legal age, because minors changed, too.”
According to cannabis reform advocacy group NORML, twenty-five states and the District of Columbia have either legalized or decriminalized possession and use of marijuana for adults over the age of 21, while medical marijuana is legal in 33 states.
Recent data from the Pew Research Center shows that two-thirds of the public in the U.S. favors the legalization of cannabis—a sure sign of the anti-prohibitionist mood of most Americans and especially millennials.