Drug-Linked Disciplinary Actions by Schools Spiked After Oregon Legalized Marijuana

MONDAY, Oct. 23, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- New research suggests a link between middle school students being disciplined for marijuana use and legalization of recreational weed, particularly when schools are close to dispensaries that sell the drug.

Researchers studied this in Oregon, where recreational marijuana became legal for adults back in 2015.  

They found that middle school students received office discipline referrals for substance use offenses that were not related to alcohol or tobacco about 30% more often after marijuana legalization, compared to schools in other states over the same period.

“These findings can guide future prevention efforts,” said Gulcan Cil, of the Oregon Research Institute and the Center for Evidence-based Policy at Oregon Health & Science University, “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.”

Researchers compared the changes both before and after legalization in both middle and high schools for the school years 2012-2013 through 2018-2019. They selected comparison schools from states that legalized marijuana after the study period.

The study did not find any change in offenses for high school students.

These increases in substance use instances were seen only in schools with a marijuana outlet within a one-mile radius.

Researchers said that finding fits with previous research showing the presence and proximity of marijuana outlets was related to higher rates of marijuana use among youth and a younger age at which they began using marijuana.

Investments in school-based prevention programs could be important considerations for policymakers, the study noted.

“Personnel in schools with nearby recreational marijuana outlets may want to proactively monitor student marijuana use. At the state level, lawmakers and state agency leaders may consider expansion of school-based programs to monitor and prevent substance use, as well as policies limiting outlets near schools,” Cil said in an institute news release.

Marijuana use in adolescence has been linked to academic problems, mental health issues and impaired driving. Policymakers need a broader understanding of the full impact of marijuana legalization to create more effective policy, the researchers said.

The findings were published recently in the journal Health Economics.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on marijuana and youth.

SOURCE: Oregon Research Institute, news release, Oct. 18, 2023

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