For Oregon, legalizing recreational marijuana has proven lucrative: In 2016 alone, marijuana tax receipts in the state totaled more than $60 million. Now, researchers are beginning to understand how all that weed has affected the drug habits of college students.
A new study in the journal Addiction finds that, after legalization, the use of marijuana among students at an Oregon college increased relative to that of students in states where the drug is still illegal. But, in a twist, the rise was mainly seen among those students who had also reported drinking heavily recently. The Oregon students who binge drank were 73 percent more likely to also report using marijuana, compared to binge-drinking students in states that didn’t legalize marijuana.
The authors, researchers from Oregon State University and the University of Michigan, note that this could be because teens who drink heavily might be more open to other forms of substance use—either because they are bigger risk-takers, or less religious, or for some other reason. (The authors looked at both smoking pot and eating cannabis-laced edibles.)
“Those who binge drink may be more open to marijuana use if it is easy to access,” said David Kerr, lead author of the study and an Oregon State psychology professor, in a statement. “Whereas those who avoid alcohol for cultural or lifestyle reasons might avoid marijuana regardless of its legal status.”