“What explains this?” asks Christopher Salas-Wright, an assistant professor at UT-Austin and lead author of the study.
“It is hard to know,” he says. “[But] the rise of medical marijuana, the relaxing of marijuana use laws and increased exposure of marijuana as perhaps normative – as well as no longer immoral – may be influencing how young adults feel about others using marijuana, but not impacting beliefs about one’s own use of marijuana.”
Zachary Pion, an alumnus from the University of Vermont, says he agrees with Salas-Wright’s claim.
“I would say I’ve always had a strong opposition to marijuana usage, but seeing it so freely in my college experience, I became far less sensitized to its usage very quickly, even though it did not impact my own decision to not use the substance,” Pion says.
Salas-Wright says he was interested in understanding substance usage among young people, and, in turn, how to prevent substance abuse.
In addition, given the recent trend of marijuana legalization, researchers wanted to see if these policy changes had an impact on usage and beliefs surrounding the drug.
“Our results may suggest that recent changes in public policy, including the decriminalization, medicalization and legalization of marijuana in cities and states across the country, have not resulted in more use or greater approval of marijuana use among younger adolescents,” Salas-Wright says.
Some students say they agree with the findings shown.
“Younger age groups are less likely to approve of marijuana because they are not constantly surrounded by peers who use marijuana or have been users of marijuana,” Kristen Adaway, a sophomore at the University of Georgia, says. “Societal differences in various environments play a huge role in acceptance of certain behaviors.”
Pion adds: “With increased access to unbiased education for this (older) age group, students and young adults are freer to make their own decisions and formulate their own opinions without the oversight and pressure of perhaps more conservative family or friends.”
Pion says he thinks this study signals a turn in how Millennials view various societal issues, such as drug usage.
“It’s no wonder to me then why there was a downward trend in the disapproval of marijuana among teens aged 18 to 25, because this age group educates themselves on the issues and has open and honest conversations about them that challenges our peers and others we’re close to,” Pion says. “It’s only when this happens that we can move forward together as a society.”
By Alexandra Samuels - USA Today/July 16, 2015