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Study Shows College Binge Drinking Down in States with Legal Cannabis

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College students are well-known for their binge drinking, as it kind of comes with the territory. And college students attending school in states where cannabis is legal are consuming more cannabis, but are binge drinking less, according to a recent study conducted by Oregon State University.

Researchers found that students who attend school in states with legal cannabis are currently 18 percent more likely to have consumed cannabis in the past month than students who attend in non-legal states. Frequent consumption is also more likely in legal states, with frequent consumption being defined as at least once per day for 20 out of 30 days. 

After six years of legalization in states who did so early, students were 46% more likely to have consumed cannabis than their peers in states where prohibition continues. The study also concluded that cannabis consumption increased about 13% overall in legal states from 2012-2018. 

The data for the study comes from over 850,000 college-age participants who were asked a wide variety of questions, including about their personal consumption habits. Naturally, legalization will have an impact on what anyone decides to consume, and students are no different. However, researchers pointed out that the data suggests it’s more complex than that.

“It’s easy to look at the findings and think, ‘Yeah, of course rates would increase,’” said David Kerr of OSU, who worked on the study. “But we need to quantify the effects these policy changes are having.”

“When you’re under 21, all substances are equally illegal. 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,” said OSU doctoral candidate Zoe Alley, who worked on a similar study.

With the data set from the same study, researchers also found that binge drinking by students 21 or older in legal states was significantly lower than students who attend college where cannabis is still illegal. Binge drinking was defined as drinking five or more alcoholic beverages in a single sitting.

Prohibitionists might view the statistics of an increase in cannabis consumption as a bad thing, but most of us know by now that there is an abundance of evidence that suggests cannabis is safer than alcohol. As more states continue to remove restrictions on cannabis and legalize, we should only see more decreases in dangerous binge drinking.