Medical marijuana has been found to be useful in treating a variety of conditions. From chronic pain to anxiety, marijuana is now being used by many people to improve their lives. Surprisingly, or unsurprisingly to some, it has also found a home in college life, being adopted by some students to fight stress or other problems. This has led to some students questioning the legality of their usage, even in states with legal medical and recreational use. In this post, we will try and untangle the confusing laws of marijuana use on college campuses. 

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How Can Marijuana Help College Students?

To start, it may be important to understand why college students may need to use medical marijuana in the first place. For some students, it helps them cope with the stress inherent to the college lifestyle. Difficult classes, new environments and new experiences can make for a tough and dramatic shift in lifestyle. Especially for those who suffer from anxiety disorders, college life can make these problems worse, compounding on the ever-present stress. Stress is so common, in fact, that it is estimated that only 1.6% of college students felt no stress over the course of one year [1].

This stress can cause many complications for students and comes in many forms. Acute stress, stress that arises and fades quickly, such as before taking an exam, can cause headaches, heightened blood pressure and shortness of breath. This type of stress, though, is generally not very dangerous by itself. If it happens frequently, however, it can be categorized as episodic stress. The symptoms of episodic stress are similar to those of acute stress but can build up over time. This type of stress and also lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as binge drinking and overeating. The final type of stress is chronic stress. Chronic stress is stress that occurs over a long period of time and is caused by serious lifestyle and environmental conditions. Chronic stress is the most life-threatening and dangerous type of stress, as it heightens the risk of heart attack, stroke, and depression. 

Without a doubt, stress is one of the most serious and persistent causes of poor health in college students, and people are starting to take notice. More students are seeking help for their mental health now than ever before, and one of the ways they are treating it is medical marijuana. 

We have previously seen the therapeutic properties of medical marijuana in regard to stress and anxiety, and that the results may depend on cannabinoid dosages [2]. Marijuana may also be able to help reduce some of the symptoms of stress we previously discussed, such as headaches, nausea, and insomnia. 

Besides stress, many college students are affected by one or more of the qualifying conditions laid out by their state’s medical marijuana laws thereby, assuming they are above the legal age limit, giving them access to the program. Some students view marijuana as a daily necessity to fight off side effects of conditions or prescription drugs. 

Is Medical Marijuana Allowed on Campus?

As of now, marijuana is still considered a Schedule I drug under federal law, essentially meaning that its use, even for medical purposes, is federally illegal. Despite pressure, the Department of Justice has still not laid out clear policies regarding state-wide legalizations, leaving many places, including colleges, in a tight spot. 

Similarly to pharmacies, and other federally-funded institutions, schools must follow these federal laws or risk punishment. This means that schools must also treat marijuana as a Schedule I drug, even when recommended by a certified physician. The divide in the law has caused problems for some students. Those who are caught carrying or using marijuana on campus risk a hefty penalty and even expulsion. 

In some cases, schools have explicit policies regarding marijuana use. These policies will generally explain the rules regarding marijuana and how cases of medical marijuana will be handled. 

Should Medical Marijuana Be Legal on College Campuses?

We have seen why students may be benefitted by using medical marijuana, but every argument has two sides, so what are some dangers of marijuana on college campuses?

Some studies have found marijuana use is correlated with lower GPA, and that those who use marijuana are more likely to skip classes or take longer to graduate. Marijuana use may also be related to schizophrenia, a condition that seems to be more likely to become active around college age. 

In most cases, the marijuana alluded to in these studies is recreational marijuana, with a very high THC content. Compared to most strains of medical marijuana, recreational marijuana is going to be much more psychoactive, resulting in more dangerous side-effects. 

In Conclusion

Medical marijuana can be used by college students for many reasons, with one of the most common being stress and anxiety. Stress comes in many forms and may be acute or chronic. Chronic stress can lead to many health problems down the line and may be able to be relieved by marijuana. Despite this, marijuana is not allowed on most college campuses due to federal law, though some colleges may have special exceptions. For most, marijuana use on campus can result in severe punishment, and the possible benefits must be weighed against its shortcomings. 

 

Cited Works

[1] https://www.acha.org/documents/ncha/NCHA-II_Spring_2018_Undergraduate_Reference_Group_Executive_Summary.pdf

[2] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165032718303100?via%3Dihub