A study published in Health Economics compared school data across states and found that Oregon middle school students received an increasing number of office discipline referrals (ODRs) for cannabis possession violations after Oregon legalized recreational cannabis in 2015. They compared substance use ODRs in Oregon schools before and after the legalization of adult-use cannabis with matched comparison schools. The rate increased to more than 30% after recreational cannabis legalization. The study also found no statistically significant changes in high school ODRs. Substance use rates in middle schools increased by 0.14 per 100 students with legalization.
Researchers examined the extent to which legalization of recreational cannabis and found an association with the number of middle and high school students who violated school substance use policy. The study also assessed the impact of the proximity of cannabis dispensaries to schools. The researchers noted policy-associated changes in ODRs only in Oregon middle schools with a retail site within a one-mile radius. Previous research showed that the presence and proximity of cannabis dispensaries are associated with higher rates of cannabis consumption among young people. Previous research studies also indicated a lower age of initiation of cannabis use.
Potential adverse impacts on adolescents and investments in school-based prevention programs could be important considerations for policymakers and public health officials in their policy decisions related to marijuana. Study author Dr. Gulcan Cil explained, “These findings can guide future prevention efforts,” noted Dr. Cil, “because they suggest a stronger association between marijuana legalization and use at school for early adolescents, who are at a critical developmental stage regarding possible negative neurobiological consequences from marijuana use, and also at a higher risk for future transition to dependence.” Previous studies have highlighted the adverse health and social outcomes linked to adolescent cannabis use, including academic problems and mental health issues. Youth prevention initiatives are critical for minimizing harmful neurodevelopmental effects and cannabis use disorder.