Attitudes and beliefs of cannabis among college students

Publication Date


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Publication Title

American Public Health Association 2020 Annual Meeting and Expo

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Background: Young adults in California have come of age in an era of legal medical and recreational cannabis. Attitudes about cannabis are rapidly changing. We conducted this study to determine college student perceptions of cannabis use and to examine if these perceptions differ between cannabis users and non-users.

Methods: Undergraduate students conducted a cross-sectional study that examined our peers’ beliefs and attitudes about cannabis (n=339). We used standard questions from existing surveys as well as questions we developed in light of our own experiences.

Results: Cannabis is considered most advantageous to students as a relaxant (62.2%), a sleep aid (57.1%), and as a substance which does not cause a hangover (62.2%). However, the perceived disadvantages of cannabis included lung damage (65.3%) and reduced motivation (57.8%). While the majority of students did not think cannabis was safe to use while driving (90.1%) or during pregnancy (94.8%), students also believe that cannabis use is not immoral (93.7%). Cannabis users had 3.12 times the prevalence of believing that using cannabis does not lead to the use of other drugs than non-users (PR 3.12, 95% CI 1.80 - 5.40). Students who had used cannabis in the past thirty days were much more likely than their non-cannabis using peers to report that using cannabis has no impact (PR 4.03) or is more helpful than harmful (PR 3.55) than to report that cannabis is more harmful than helpful.

Conclusion: While the majority of participants perceived cannabis to not be immoral, the data suggests that cannabis also is viewed to have negative effects mentally and physically. Although some beliefs surrounding cannabis safety were in agreement regardless of cannabis use history, the differing perception of the potential risks and benefits associated with cannabis among young adults suggests a need for further research.


College Students


Public Health and Recreation