College-Age Adults Getting High at Historic Levels

Marijuana use by college students continued to rise over the past five years, while cannabis use by their same-age peers stayed historically high, according to the latest results of a national study tracking substance use by young adults released this week. 

The National Institutes of Health on Wednesday released data from the 2020 Monitoring the Future study, which has been collecting information on alcohol and drug use by young adults aged 19 through 22 since 1980.

Nora D. Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), noted in a press release on Wednesday that, in addition to the increase in marijuana use, college students reported a significant rise in the use of hallucinogens and a substantial drop in alcohol use between 2019 and 2020.

“The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changed the way that young people interact with one another and offers us an opportunity to examine whether drug-taking behavior has shifted through these changes,” Volcow said. “Moving forward, it will be critical to investigate how and when different substances are used among this young population, and the impact of these shifts over time.”

Marijuana Use Up Significantly

Among college students, 44 percent reported using marijuana during the past year in 2020, compared to 38 percent in 2015. For those not in college, past-year marijuana use remained at the historically high level of 43 percent in 2020, the same rate reported in 2018 and 2019.

Daily use of marijuana (defined as using marijuana on 20 or more occasions in the past 30 days) has also continued to rise, with eight percent of college students reporting daily use compared to five percent in 2015. For adults of the same age not in college, 13 percent reported using cannabis on a daily basis.

“Daily marijuana use is a clear health risk,” said John Schulenberg, lead investigator of the Monitoring the Future study. “The brain is still developing in the early 20s, and as the Surgeon General and others have reported, the scientific evidence indicates that heavy marijuana use can be detrimental to cognitive functioning and mental health.”

“As of 2020, almost one in 12 college students used marijuana on a daily basis, and we know from our research and that of others that heavy marijuana use is associated with poor academic performance and dropping out of college,” Schulenberg continued. “For the almost one in seven young adults aged 19-22 not in college who are daily marijuana users, getting a foothold on the roles and responsibilities of adulthood may be all the more difficult. Of course, the landscape of cannabis use is changing, so continued research is needed regarding negative consequences of heavy use.”

Schulenberg and his fellow researchers cited several likely causes of the increase in marijuana use among college-aged adults, including a reduced perception of harm associated with daily marijuana use. In 2020, 21 percent perceived regular cannabis use as carrying a great risk of harm, the lowest level since 1980.

Use of Hallucinogens Also Up

The use of hallucinogens including LSD, psilocybin mushrooms and other psychedelic substances also increased significantly between 2019 and 2020. Last year, almost nine percent of college students reported using any psychedelic drug, compared to five percent in 2019. The use of hallucinogens by those not in college did not increase significantly, remaining somewhat consistent at about 10 percent in 2020 compared to eight percent in 2019.

“This continued increase in the use of hallucinogens corresponds with the decrease in the perception that hallucinogens are harmful,” Schulenberg said. “For example, the perception that experimental use of LSD carries great harm was at only 28 percent in 2020 among 19-to-22-year-olds. This is an all-time low over the past four decades and far below the highest level of 50 percent in 1989.”

Alcohol use by college students, however, showed a significant drop in 2020, with 56 percent reporting drinking in the past 30 days compared to 62 percent in 2019. Additionally, 28 percent of college students said that they had gotten drunk in the past 30 days, down from 35 percent in 2019, while 24 percent reported binge drinking (drinking five or more drinks in a row during the past two weeks) in 2020, compared to 32 percent the year before. Alcohol use by non-college students remained fairly consistent across all measures, with no reported drop in 2020.

“Historically, college students have reported the highest levels of binge drinking compared to same-aged youth who are not enrolled in college. This is the first year where binge drinking was similar between the two groups,” Schulenberg said. “While binge drinking has been gradually declining among college students for the past few decades, this is a new historic low, which may reflect effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of reduced time with college friends.”

The Monitoring the Future study has been tracking substance use by young adults ages 19 to 22 since 1980. Funded by NIDA, the survey is conducted annually by scientists at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, Ann Arbor. Results are based on data collected from full-time college students one to four years past high school graduation compared to high school graduates of the same age who are not enrolled in college full time.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2020 Headlines | Marijuana Today Daily News

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Thursday, March 5, 2020 Headlines | Marijuana Today Daily News

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Thursday, March 5, 2020 Headlines | Marijuana Today Daily News

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Thursday, March 5, 2020 | Curated by host Shea Gunther

// Canopy Closing Two Facilities, Laying Off 500, Taking $700 Million Charge (Green Market Report)

// Illinois Sold Almost $35 Million Of Marijuana In Second Month Of Legal Sales (Marijuana Moment)

// Mexican Senate commissions approve marijuana bill legalizing recreational use (Marijuana Business Daily)


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// 3 months in reported cannabis sales total $31.9M, generate $5.3M tax revenue (Oakland Press)

// Texas Cops Are Getting Ready to Bust Spring Breakers for THC Vape Carts (Merry Jane)

// Arkansas can resume issuing medical cannabis licenses, judge says (Marijuana Business Daily)

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New Study Shows Students Are Less likely to Binge Drink Where Cannabis Is Legal

Ten year’s worth of data from a survey of American college students with 1.1 million participants shows that of-age students are less likely to binge drink where recreational cannabis is legal. That’s according to a new study just published in Addictive Behaviors, one of the first to investigate how university students’ substance consumption changes after states legalize recreational marijuana. Researchers have already detected trends of increased cannabis consumption among college students after legalization. But this new study suggests that students are substituting cannabis for alcohol and binge drinking less often as a result.

Recreational Marijuana Legalization Decreased Binge Drinking Among Of-Age College Students

In a newly published study, researchers examine trends in college students’ alcohol, nicotine, prescription opioid and other drug use after recreational marijuana legalization. Using data from surveys of American university students from 2008 to 2018, researchers wanted to see how recreational marijuana legalization (RML) impacts other substance use trends.

The study highlights how RML was linked to decreased binge drinking prevalence among university students old enough to legally consume alcohol. After states legalize recreational weed, researchers observed a decrease in college binge drinking by an average of 6 percent.

Oregon State University Ph.D student Zoe Alley, one of the study’s authors, said the decrease could be accounted for by the wider availability of cannabis after legalization. “When you reach the legal drinking age, suddenly a lot of people transition to using more alcohol because now it’s more available and marijuana is not,” said Alley. Legalizing marijuana, by contrast, may prevent students who turn 21 from substituting alcohol for cannabis based on availability.

The data supports Alley’s hypothesis. In Oregon, for example, where cannabis and alcohol are about equally available, fewer people are turning to alcohol. As a result, there appears to be less alcohol misuse and abuse.

Researchers Expect Legalization to Change Substance Use Trends in U.S. and Canada

The phenomenon of expanding or substituting substances based on availability and convenience is one researchers are only beginning to understand. But experts expect RML to alter substance use trends in both the U.S. and Canada. In Canada, the legal age for alcohol and cannabis are in many provinces lower than they are in the U.S. But a dearth of retail stores and product shortages in Canada have made cannabis less available than alcohol, at least so far.

Still, expanding the availability of legal cannabis could reduce binge drinking in Canada, too, as it has in the United States. And that could be a big win for public health.

Many experts acknowledge that the harms and risks of alcohol outweigh the risks of cannabis consumption. From cancer to liver disease, to sexual assault, drunk driving, and fatal alcohol poisoning (problems that plague college campuses), alcohol is the greater health and public safety risk.

But the exact relationship between RML and other substance use is still up for debate. Some studies have shown RML increases alcohol consumption in some populations, while others show a decrease or no relationship at all between legalization and alcohol use. This new study specifically examines how legalization changes alcohol use trends among college students who are 21 and over. “The biggest takeaway from our paper is that problem binge drinking in college students who are 21 and over changes after the implementation of recreational marijuana use,” said Alley.

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Monday, November 4, 2019 Headlines | Marijuana Today Daily News

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Friday, October 25, 2019 Headlines | Marijuana Today Daily News

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Students Disciplined For Using Medical Marijuana Are Suing Colleges

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Colleges are becoming a battleground in the conflict between federal and state marijuana laws as students who use medical pot challenge decades-old campus drug policies.

In states
where medical marijuana is legal, students disciplined for using it are
taking their schools to court. College officials argue they could lose
federal funding for failing to follow federal law that labels cannabis
an illegal drug with no accepted medical use.

Sheida Assar said
she was expelled from GateWay Community College in Phoenix last month
for violating the school’s drug policy after she tested positive for
marijuana, which she uses to treat chronic pain from polycystic ovary
syndrome.

She was studying diagnostic medical sonography, Assar
said, and an instructor had told her she wouldn’t have any problems if
she presented her Arizona medical marijuana card. She typically uses
marijuana to help her sleep and had never been under the influence in
class, she said.

“They yanked me out of class in the middle of the
school day,” said Assar, 31, of Chandler, Arizona. “They escorted me to
the administration like I was a … criminal. It’s discrimination, and
it also violates my rights under the Arizona medical marijuana law.”

The
legal challenges are coming from students studying nursing and other
medical specialties who, under school policies, must undergo drug
testing.

Assar and other students say they received approval to
use medical marijuana from college employees who serve students with
health-related needs — only to face discipline from higher-ranking
school officials.

Assar said she intends to sue GateWay to recoup
the $2,000 she spent on tuition and other educational expenses and seek
more money in damages. Her lawyer already has been in contact with the
school, she said.

A GateWay spokeswoman, Christine Lambrakis, said
that she could not confirm Assar’s status at the school and that the
college continues to prohibit marijuana use.

Asked about an
Arizona Supreme Court ruling last year that overturned a 2012 state law
that made possession or use of marijuana on college campuses a crime,
Lambrakis said the school is in the process of reviewing its policies
and will not change them in the meantime.

Thirty-three states and
Washington, D.C., allow medical marijuana, and 11 states and Washington,
D.C., have legalized recreational marijuana, creating clashes with
federal law that have been playing out in courts, mostly in employment
cases that have had mixed results for medical pot.

There don’t
appear to be efforts by recreational marijuana users to challenge
college drug policies, observers say. That’s likely because states limit
recreational use to people 21 and older, excluding most college
students, and because there haven’t been successful legal challenges to
campus alcohol policies even though state laws allow people 21 and over
to drink, they say.

States with medical marijuana laws allow use
by people 18 years or older with a doctor’s recommendation, as well as
by minors if their parents approve.

Connecticut nursing student
Kathryn Magner sued Sacred Heart University last month after she tested
positive for marijuana and was barred from attending required clinical
medical rounds, according to her lawsuit. She had begun using marijuana
legally in her home state of Massachusetts over the summer to treat
conditions that were not disclosed in legal documents.

Connecticut
law allows medical marijuana and forbids public and private colleges
from discriminating against students who use it. A judge cited the
state’s law in ordering that Magner, 22, from Marlborough,
Massachusetts, be allowed to return to the medical rounds. The lawsuit
was settled under undisclosed terms.

Before the settlement, she
stopped using marijuana, passed a drug screening and obtained approval
to use medical pot from the Fairfield school’s Office of Student
Accessibility to try to salvage her nursing career, her lawsuit said.
But nursing school officials wouldn’t budge, her lawsuit said.

“Many
schools disability services offices are not universally listened to by
the university,” said Michael Thad Allen, an attorney for Magner. “It
just shows that these kinds of issues will become more common if
employers and schools don’t abide by the law.”

Sacred Heart
requires students to “obey the law at all times,” but it treats medical
marijuana like other disability-related requests and “seeks to provide
reasonable accommodation under the law,” school officials said in a
statement.

In Florida, Kaitlin McKeon, of Naples, is suing Nova
Southeastern University for expelling her from its nursing program in
Fort Myers last year after she tested positive for marijuana. She has a
state medical marijuana card to take the drug for several conditions.

McKeon
also said school officials told her there would be no problem with her
use of medical marijuana under the provisions of state law.

But
after she failed the drug test in January 2018, higher-ranking officials
moved to expel her, saying she violated the school’s drug policy, her
lawsuit says.

“It’s really sad that Nova Southeastern … took
this stance on this issue and is really preventing a really good, caring
person from entering the nursing field and living out her dream because
she chose a medication that’s legal in Florida but not one that they
recognize,” said her lawyer, Michael Minardi.

Nova Southeastern officials said they cannot comment on pending litigation.

The lawsuits have the potential to set legal precedents on the use of medical marijuana at colleges.

In
the meantime, advocates say, universities can lighten penalties so
students do not face expulsion or suspension for legally using medical
marijuana.

“Universities can effectively decriminalize it, de-punish it and make it not something they focus on,” said Jared Moffat, campaigns coordinator for the Marijuana Policy Project, an advocacy group for pro-marijuana laws.

By Dave Collins

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