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Marijuana Use Among College Students

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This study is on the use of marijuana among college students in correlation with the growing marijuana trend as the substance becomes more widely legal over time. To conduct this study, a 7-question survey was filled out by 61 respondents across various North Carolina universities. The participants were gathered using an opportunity sample and was random. Previous research conducted by Bell et al. (1997) implies that marijuana use has become more popular as the years progress. My study is aiming to figure out if this growth in popularity holds true around me. It was found that within my sample, there was a larger number of participants who have tried marijuana then there was who have not tried the drug. In comparison to previous research, my results have a higher percentage of marijuana users than what is typically shown, part of this may be due to the sample size.

Background on Marijuana

Despite legalization in a few of the states, marijuana remains a “schedule 1 drug” on the federal level according to the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). This means that marijuana is illegal because it has “high abuse potential, no medical use, and severe safety concerns”. Marijuana was classified as a schedule 1 drug during Richard Nixon’s war on drugs under the controlled substances act of 1970; However, the schedule 1 classification is likely unwarranted and inappropriate for the drug at question. Marijuana use is far more common than most think, I remember how many people would use the substance in high school as part of their routine and nobody would bat an eye. But how? How could regular use of a “schedule 1” drug just seem so ordinary? And are these people using it recreationally or medically? Or both?

Over 94 million people in the United States have admitted to trying the drug, although surely that number is much higher now. Marijuana has been found to not be physically addictive to the body as well as to be relatively harmless in comparison to say, cigarettes. The active chemical in marijuana is harmless to the body according to research, most of the negative effects of marijuana come from the act of smoking it but smoking anything is unhealthy for your body. But what are the benefits to using marijuana medically? The use of marijuana for medicinal purposes has long been at the center of a great amount of controversy. Some studies have found that the medical benefits from using the substance far outweigh the negatives that come from the consumption of it. Other studies have found/argued that marijuana should be an accepted method of treatment for some patients who are suffering with illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, cancer, AIDS, and eating disorders. Many patients report using marijuana medically to their doctors while obtaining the drug illegally.

It has been proven in studies to help with all different kinds of pain relief as well as helping people with trouble sleeping, eating, or with anxiety. The idea of using Marijuana as a healer became popular all around the world and by the 1900s, was being used in different parts of the world to treat similar problems; However, this all changed when it was criminalized. Many patients found it very effective, even more so then regular medications, whether by prescription or over-the-counter. Most doctors would say that marijuana is not harmful so long as it is used in moderation. It is only when people abuse the drug that problems arise. The original reasons for making marijuana illegal in the first place come from the threat it posed to the paper industry, as organic hemp was a good material and its use would compete with paper and other materials as hemp is known to be one of the most durable soft fibers on the planet, so of course that would compete with the paper industry, was it grounds to make it illegal? Definity not.

Research on The Use

In a previous survey: Bell, Wechsler, and Johnston (1997), 17592 college students were surveyed across 140 different American universities. The study focuses on learning which student background and college characteristics associated with the use of marijuana. It was found that 40% of the respondents reported having used marijuana before while 60% reported having never used the drug. I hypothesize that there will be a higher percentage of people on average who have tried marijuana in my sample than in the Bell et al. (1997) study due to how much cannabis has grown in popularity in the recent years. Due to the amount of time in between studies, there will likely be noticeable change in results regarding the use of cannabis among college students then vs now due to the rise in popularity of the drug following its legalization in a small number of states. Its growing popularity is what brought my attention to the topic in the first place.


I collected the data for the survey using Google forms. The Google forms survey (see appendix) consists of seven questions related to marijuana use. My survey was not as detailed as the one used in Bell et al. (1997), which was due to my limited sample size. While they surveyed students from over 140 different universities, I was unfortunately limited to 6; Therefore, a simple survey would be more effective for a smaller sample as there is less room for variation. An opportunity sample was used to collect data for this study. The sample is made up of 61 different college students, all freshman (unintentionally). An opportunity sample was chosen because it was the most readily available method of finding a sample for my survey. The students that make up the sample are from multiple universities including: UNC Wilmington, Chapel Hill, Duke, Appalachian, NC State, and UNC Charlotte. Once the surveys were completed, I placed the results into a table and then analyzed the raw data for correlations and trends that are significant.


My sample is made up of 61 participants, 36 male participants and 25 female participants. After responding, 59% of the participants claimed to have tried marijuana at least once in their lifetime while 41% have never tried marijuana. Of the participants who have tried marijuana, 44% of the participants claim to use marijuana daily, 14% of the participants reported using marijuana at least once weekly and 36% reported using marijuana monthly. Out of the 36 participants who have tried marijuana, 2 reported trying the substance only once. 45 (74%) of the participants claim to use alcohol while 16 (26%) do not. 9 (15%) of the participants claim to have been diagnosed with a mental disability while the remaining 52 participants have not. When asked whether or not they believed marijuana use among young adults is a problem, 79% believe is not an issue while 21% believe it is. Discussion In my study it was found that within my sample, a higher percentage of people reported using marijuana than having not used marijuana; Therefore, my original hypothesis was correct as I predicted my results would differ from that of Bell et al. (1997).

Limitations with My Research

Several limitations with my research stem from having a small sample size as compared to Bell et al. In the Bell study, they were able to go more in depth on their questionnaire, focusing on not only the statistics regarding the use of marijuana, but also the outside personal characteristics associated with the use of cannabis. Due to having such a small sample size, I was unable to look at all the extra characteristics studied in Bell et al. (1997) such as ethnicity and other risk-taking behaviors participated in. A smaller sample size means that having that many potential groups would lessen the credibility of the results and therefore make them less generalizable. In fact, the sample size alone lowers the ecological validity of my findings. Another limitation with my research is the amount of questions on my survey. When I completed my survey I felt pleased with the questions I had chosen, however when organizing my data, I realized that a few additional questions such as “what university do you attend?” or other slightly more detailed questions would have allowed me to learn more about the subject.

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