Legal Cannabis States: Student Binge Drinking Drops

Binge Drinking
According to a January 2020 research, states that have legalized recreational marijuana use have experienced a notable decline in student binge drinking. This finding is significant as binge drinking has been linked to numerous deaths. Simultaneously, there has been an increase in marijuana use, with the perception that it is safer as it does not cause a lethal overdose. The study suggests that individuals aged 21 and over may opt for marijuana instead of alcohol, potentially creating a safer college campus environment. Learn more about this intriguing correlation at CannaMD.
Table of Contents

The benefits of marijuana may be more far-reaching than we think.

According to a recent analysis, in states where recreational marijuana use has been legalized, student binge drinking plummeted – an important finding, as the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reported that binge drinking contributed to the deaths of approximately 1,519 students in 2018.

At the same time, marijuana use has risen. In comparison, only three people have reportedly died indirectly from marijuana use, including two cases detailed in a 2014 study appearing in the peer-reviewed journal, Forensic Science International (all deaths were believed to be caused by other health conditions that were negatively impacted by marijuana use).

According to Paul Armentano, Deputy Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML):

It is well-established in the world medical literature that cannabis is incapable of causing death by lethal overdose.

On a whole, researchers say binge drinking is down across the nation, but it has dropped to even more significant levels in states where recreational marijuana is legal.

The analysis was based on a 2019 study that appeared in the peer-reviewed journal, Addiction, suggesting that marijuana may be preferred over alcohol for those 21 and older, who are now able to drink legally.

As Oregon State University doctoral candidate Zoe Alley, notes:

When you’re under 21, all substances are equally illegal.

Co-author of a companion study published in Addictive Behaviors, Alley researched how the legalization of marijuana impacted the use of other substances, including alcohol:

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. But when marijuana is legal, this dynamic is changed.

According to the original study in Addiction, which included data compiled by the National College Health Assessment Survey from 2008-2018 covering more than 850,000 students from more than 500 universities in 48 states (seven where marijuana is legal, the rest where marijuana is not), marijuana use has increased significantly in states where recreational cannabis has been legalized.

Researchers found that in states where recreational marijuana is legal, students were 18% more likely to have used marijuana over the past 30 days than those in states where marijuana remains illegal. Students were also 17% more likely to use marijuana frequently, at least 20 days a month.

Marijuana use is lower in states where marijuana has not been legalized, but cannabis use has still gone up, increasing from 14 to 17% between 2012 and 2018. Sharper increases were observed – from 21 to 38% – in states that were among the first to legalize marijuana.

Because binge drinking has led to so many deaths and marijuana is comparably safer, the findings may reflect an overall safer environment on college campuses, where alcohol has also been a contributing factor in almost 700,000 cases of assault per year, as well as 97,000 cases of sexual assault annually.

Updated: May 29, 2024

Article Written By:

Brenda Neugent

Brenda is a professional writer specializing in medical cannabis and alternative health reporting.


Questions about medical marijuana? Ready to get your card and purchase legal cannabis products? CannaMD‘s state-certified network of medical marijuana doctors are here to help! Contact CannaMD‘s experienced team at (855) 420-9170 today. You can also find out if you qualify for medical marijuana treatment with our quick online application!

Find Out If You Qualify

You may be eligible for medical marijuana!

To stay up-to-date with the latest studies and legal regulations surrounding medical marijuana treatment, be sure to follow CannaMD on Facebook and sign up for our newsletter, below!

Join 100k+ Subscribers!

Get updates on more posts like this!

Related PostS

Feedback from our readers is very important and helps us provide quality articles. Please don’t be shy, leave a comment.

If you have a topic you would like us to cover in our blog or you are interested in writing guest posts please contact us for more information.

Get a medical marijuana certification