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Study Finds Recreational Marijuana Legislation Boosts College Enrollment Without Hurting Graduation Rates

For decades, there has been a prevailing stereotype that suggests pot smokers are lethargic, lazy, and unmotivated. Look no further than movies like Fast Times at Ridgemont High to find lackluster high school burnouts smoking pot with no further aspirations than where can they score some tasty munchies and how high are the waves today?

Now, another new study is busting the myth of the lazy, unmotivated pot smoker. A University of Oklahoma graduate student published a study that suggests states that adopt recreational marijuana legalization policies see a spike in student applications. The kicker to the study is, there seems to be no apparent decline in the quality of the student applicants or graduation rates.

Recreational Marijuana and College Enrollment

The author of a newly published marijuana study suggests that his data indicates that states that have pushed forward with legalizing recreational marijuana see an increase in college enrollment of approximately 9 percent. Many of the college enrollment application increases come from out-of-state enrollments, which the author suggests “boosts college competitiveness by offering a positive amenity.” Furthermore, the study shows “no evidence that RML affects college prices, quality, or in-state enrollment.”

The new study builds on older works that show schools in states with legalized recreational marijuana saw an increase in their application pools with no decline in the quality of the student applications. The new body of research looking into application and graduation rates shows that the increase in enrollment seems to coincide with a slight delay in the passage of marijuana legalization measures, around four years after the first dispensary openings. The slight delay may be due to numerous factors, such as the slow implementation of marijuana policy, the establishment of regulatory bodies, and the opening of dispensaries.

Another hypothesis proposed by the study suggests that “states may use the additional tax revenue from marijuana sales to subsidize their higher education sector.” States with a more robust higher educational system, thanks to the influx of marijuana tax dollars, may draw higher enrollment numbers from students interested in a quality education and better amenities.

The study also notes that the 4.6 to 9 percent enrollment boost includes both men and women. Marijuana policy does not seem to incite one particular gender over the other to apply to schools in states with more liberal marijuana policies.

Graduation Rates and Quality Education

Both studies seem to indicate that these are not students with a “party agenda” looking for a legal way to get high and skate through school. The most recent study examined student performance at schools in Washington and Colorado, two states that were early adopters of recreational marijuana legislation. Data shows a notable, positive impact on graduation rates, “contributing to increases of up to 2.7% points for bachelor’s degrees and 5.6% points for associate degrees.”

The study says, “The graduation rate for associate degrees shows a significant effect from the fourth lead, indicating a delayed response to the policy as discussed in the main result section. “On the other hand, the graduation rate for bachelor degrees shows a significant effect from the second lead, which may reflect increasing student transfers. Taken together, RML does not seem to be detrimental to the overall performance of students (i.e., degree completion on time and graduation rates).”

The study author concludes that recreational marijuana legalization does not undermine student success and achievement. However, the author notes that studying Grade Point Average data is necessary to measure student scores and overall academic performance. Measuring success by evaluating graduation rates alone does not paint a complete picture, and more research is needed to measure academic success and achievements in specific fields.

Where Does Research Go From Here?

The author notes that future research needs to focus on how marijuana legalization policy impacts peer dynamics, student relationships, and how students choose academic disciplines. The study author is particularly interested in research that differentiates between STEM fields and non-STEM fields when it comes time for students to focus on choosing their major.

Eventually, research could also be expanded to examine additional states that have shifted toward passing recreational marijuana legalization. Most studies focus on Colorado and Washington because they have significantly more data to work with, including how these states adopted recreational policies first. Colorado saw a nearly 30 percent post-legalization increase in college applicants at its larger universities.

Additional research shows that Colorado reported a significant increase in economic growth post-marijuana legalization, especially in the real estate, tourism, and education sectors. The report suggests that Colorado universities were thriving after recreational marijuana legalization, with international student enrollment up 20.9 percent at the University of Boulder and 19.8 percent at Colorado State University.

Why are student enrollment and graduation numbers so significant? Again, look to Colorado as an example. In 2008, 67.6 percent of Coloradan graduates enrolled in college stayed in the state post-graduation. By 2014, after the passage of recreational marijuana legislation, the number rose to 76 percent. Educated, skilled graduate students stayed in Colorado to work, purchase homes, and contribute to the overall health of the state’s economy.

Anecdotal evidence of marijuana’s positive impact? Perhaps. However, it is worth examining the potential benefits and drawbacks to implementing marijuana policy beyond cannabis’s effects on law enforcement and the judicial system, which are the topics many marijuana naysayers point to when advocating against legalization.

Marijuana may not corrupt our youth as the movies suggest; it may push them to better themselves and seek higher educational opportunities and ways to excel.

If you want more cannabis news nationwide, check out our site, Cannabutter Digest. We aim to offer an exceptional range of news, recipes, and product reviews designed for cannabis enthusiasts.

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