Increase in Discipline Referrals for Substance Use in Oregon Middle Schools After Recreational Marijuana Legalized

The following is excerpted from an online article posted by MedicalXpress.

A recent study has found that Oregon middle school students received office discipline referrals (ODRs) for substance use offenses 30% more often after legalization of recreational marijuana relative to comparison schools in other states over the same period (school years 2012/2013–2018/2019). There were no statistically discernable changes in high school ODRs. Recreational use by adults was legalized in Oregon in 2015.

Researchers examined the extent to which legalization of recreational marijuana is linked to the number of middle and high school students who are caught in possession of marijuana in schools, as well as the impact of having marijuana outlets within walkable distances of schools.

They used school records on ODRs for offenses related to substances other than tobacco and alcohol. They compared the change in substance use ODRs in Oregon schools before and after legalization of marijuana for adult recreational use with matched comparison schools. The comparison schools were selected from states that legalized marijuana after the study period.

Results of this study, led by Gulcan Cil, Ph.D., of Oregon Research Institute and the Center for Evidence-based Policy at Oregon Health Science University, were published in the journal Health Economics.

“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.”

Interestingly, the legalization-associated changes in substance use ODRs in Oregon middle schools were observed only in schools with a marijuana outlet within a one-mile radius. This finding is in line with previous research indicating that presence and proximity of marijuana outlets are related to higher rates of marijuana use among youth and lower age of initiation of marijuana use.

Source: MedicalXpress

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[reposted by] Jim Liebelt

Jim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for HomeWord. Jim has 40 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, having served over the years as a pastor, author, consultant, mentor, trainer, college instructor, and speaker. Jim’s HomeWord culture blog also appears on and Jim and his wife Jenny live in Quincy, MA.

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