#End420shame: The College High

Over and over again, marijuana has proven to have no boundaries in regards to race, age, or sex, but if I were to ask you to describe the “typical cannabis consumer,” more likely than not, they would look like a college student. It’s not a stereotype; it’s a fact. More 18 to 25-year-olds use marijuana than any other age group, based on statistics provided by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Age

Past Year

2014

Past Year

2015

Past Month

2014

Past Month

2015

12-17

13.1% 12.6% 7.4% 7.0%

18-25

31.9%

32.2% 19.6%

19.8%

26-65

10.1% 10.4% 6.6%

6.5%

65+ 1.9% 2.4% 1.3%

1.4%

And, now, more college students than ever are getting high.

“Marijuana use has a ‘lesser impact’ on the university community than alcohol and binge drinking… ‘You don’t see the property damage and violence and general disruptions.’”

According to Monitoring the Future, a survey by the University of Michigan, between 2006 and 2015, the number of college students who consumed marijuana in the past twelve months increased from 30 percent to 38 percent. And the frequency of use is up too. One out of every twenty-two students surveyed stated that they used marijuana daily or almost daily.

Truthfully, the trend isn’t that surprising. As more states legalize recreational and medicinal cannabis, it’s only to be expected that more college students would use, but should it worry you? Not that I can tell.

Sarah Belstock, the Director of Health Promotion at the University of Denver in Colorado, told NBC News that, “marijuana use has a ‘lesser impact’ on the university community than alcohol and binge drinking… ‘You don’t see the property damage and violence and general disruptions.’”

And there’s no indication that marijuana hurts grades either, reveals a study by Inhale Labs. Based on the survey, which interviewed 2,056 students from across the US, the average self-reported GPA of students classified as daily or near daily marijuana users was 3.2—0.1 higher than the average self-reported GPA of all students.

Taylor Jones, a twenty-four-year-old graduate out of the University of Kentucky, is the perfect example of the college cannabis user. Not only did Jones regularly consume while in school, but he also volunteered, worked and participated in several organizations including Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity, eventually graduating with honors and earning his B.B.A. in 2014.

“Marijuana helped me get through the stressful times throughout college,” said Jones. “The pressure in college to succeed can be sometimes overwhelming. Meeting deadlines, managing your time, and being on your own for the first time can be shocking. I used marijuana to tone down at the end of a hard day. It was a way to step out of reality and simply relax. And unlike with other substances, there were no negative side effects. It was also a much better choice than using alcohol. I remember living with friends who drank beer every night. They always felt hung-over the next morning while I felt completely normal.”

But for Jones, consuming marijuana wasn’t just about relaxation, he also used it medicinally to help him sleep when he really needed it. “I remember, on several occasions, I had to pull an ‘all-nighter’ studying so I could take an exam in the morning. During those times, I’d use marijuana to take a nap the next day.”

Then, there’s the social component. Jones used cannabis as an excuse to hang out with friends and as a way to meet new people.

“No matter their ethnicity or gender, marijuana was very popular at the University of Kentucky,” he remembered. “There was always paraphernalia at everyone’s house, it was always present at parties, and it was always something offered when you showed up at someone’s house to hang out. I met several friends through marijuana and continue to do so. It was very common to meet up with several friends to consume then go play basketball, video games or have a cook out.”

For Jones, and thousands of other students just like him, consuming marijuana isn’t an excuse to “slack off” but a necessary part of the college experience: a way to relax, self-medicate, and have fun. And Jones has no plans to consume less now that he’s graduated.

“I have continued to use marijuana medicinally,” he says. “ And, I believe that over the next 10-20 years, the research will prove that marijuana has multiple health benefits for the average person. When you look at our society as a whole and see how we abuse substances (i.e. caffeine, alcohol, stimulants, or pain killers) and you take a step back and look at marijuana, it is easily the best option for alternative medicine to relax the individual. I think with legalization happening across the country, marijuana will become more and more accepted as an alternative to other abused substances in college.”

If you have a story to share about cannabis as part of our #End420Shame series, use the hashtag on social media or email [email protected]

According to Monitoring the Future, a survey by the University of Michigan:

  • 38% of college students said they had used marijuana in the past 12 months.
  • 4.3% of college students use marijuana daily or almost daily.
  • 5 out of every 10 college students have not used any illicit drug in the past year.
  • Only 5% of college students indicated smoking cigarettes daily, compared to 19% in 1999.
  • In 2014, 43% of college students said they have been drunk in the past 30 days, down from 48% in 2006

 

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