Colleges Reporting a Rise in Marijuana Possession on Campuses

marijuanaIt’s no news that many college students experiment with drugs and alcohol. Many of them are experiencing their first freedom from parents and high school, and at many colleges there is a certain expectation that students will “loosen up” and try some things. Since the beatniks of the 1950s and hippie kids of the 1960s, marijuana has been a drug of choice for rebellious youth. This has held true through the 70s, 80s, etc., all the way up to today.

In fact, scientists from the University of Michigan have conducted their Monitoring the Future study, and the latest information about marijuana use is not good: daily marijuana use among college students is at the highest rate it has been in over three decades—since 1981. In the early 1990s, the rate was a bit below 1 in 50 college students. Today it’s 1 in 20, with about twice the number of males as females using the drug daily.

Marijuana competes with other drugs like Adderall (an amphetamine which is held by some to be a study aid), ecstasy, and hallucinogens, but it is by far the most popular among college students. This increased rate of consumption is showing up in many demographics of students.


There are athletes, like the starting cornerback for Missouri State who was arrested on suspicion of possession in November 2014. (This was not his first drug-related arrest, though he and his friends were not convicted after the first one.) Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall was also caught with somewhere between 8 and 10 grams of marijuana in his car in July 2014.

There are “normal” students like two 20-year-old girls at Keuka in New York. Even Christian colleges are not safe. Biola University, a Christian college based in California, has reported an increasing rate of drug violations on campus for the last three years. Their violations have gone from 10 in 2001 to 16 in 2012, and 19 in 2013. At Point Loma, in San Diego, despite the fact that students may be expelled for possession of marijuana on campus, they report 5 to 7 cases of on-campus possession per year. Azusa Pacific University, also in California, has reported 5 on-campus violations in 2011, 11 in 2012, and 19 violations in 2013.


It’s hard to pinpoint every reason for the increase, but one obvious and major factor is the recent surge in legalization of marijuana. Four states have now fully legalized marijuana: Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington. However, a whole slew of other states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes. These states include Arizona, Connecticut, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington D.C.

With this level of marijuana availability, it’s no surprise that college students are able to find ways of getting their hands on some. In virtually any area of the country, there’s a nearby state where marijuana is available.

In addition to the problem of ready access, there’s the changing public opinion about how dangerous, addictive, or problematic marijuana is. With the extensive public information campaigns based on legalizing marijuana, public opinion has shifted within the United States.

Marijuana has now been successfully marketed as the same as, or even less harmful than, alcohol. “If consenting adults can drink alcohol,” the argument goes, “why can’t they also enjoy marijuana?” College students who are in the first flush of adult freedoms are particularly susceptible to this idea. As the country gets more experience with legalized marijuana, perhaps new ways will be found to regulate access among young people. In the meantime they continue to enjoy it in increasing numbers.

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