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Rutgers University Report Examines Cannabis Consumption Data

Rutgers University, New Jersey, has just published data about cannabis use in relation to race, gender and age.

The Rutgers New Jersey State Policy Lab published a study on February 14 that looked at various trends in cannabis use among state residents. Entitled “Cannabis Legalization in New Jersey: A Baseline Study,” this nearly 100-page document spans a wide variety of observations.

“In this report, we examine education, health, and law enforcement factors as they relate to youth and adults with respect to marijuana usage directly and indirectly. That is, we include variables that could be impacted by the legalization of recreational marijuana,” the study states in its executive summary. It claims that it is the first of its kind in New Jersey. However, it points out how other states have more established cannabis legalization sectors produce comparable data every year. Additionally, it mentions that data was pulled from many secondary sources. This cautions the reader when considering the provided information.

One of the study’s key findings includes the breakdown of consumption by sex and age. According to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Data Archives (2021), the percentage of both men and women who use cannabis (45% in New Jersey and 35% in the US) are slightly lower than the national median (45.2%) and 49% (39.6%), respectively. The data shows that male/female ratios were split by 49% and 50.7% between 2016-2018.

The data shows that the consumption of adults between 26 and 25 increased in 2016, while it decreased in those aged 18 to 25, according to age-range statistics. Between 2017 and 2019, youth consumption rose by approximately 70,000 to 78,000 people, which is in line with the national average.

Charles Menifield, Dean of Rutgers University Newark School of Public Affairs and Administration, said that the principal goal of the study is to also determine if New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance and Marketplace Modernization Acts are being effectively followed. “This report is critical to New Jersey setting a model similar to other states in recognizing that all people in the state are not the same, and by legalizing cannabis, its impact on different communities is going to vary,” Menifield said. “[People] should care about this study because it’s going to have ramifications on healthcare outcomes, educational outcomes, and public safety.”

Menifield shared the idea that the data and future information could be used to help Rutgers University understand the impact of marijuana consumption on students. “The argument we are making is that graduation rates could change based on cannabis use,” said Menifield. “If students start smoking and selling marijuana, they may drop out. So who are they dropping out of school? They are now living in the same city. Which city is it? Which county is it? What’s their race? What’s the income level of their parents? So in order to ameliorate those situations, you need to know all of that other information.”

Vandeen Camp, an assistant research professor at the Rutgers-Newark Department of Urban Education, and the Joseph C. Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies explained that studies should be started now to allow for the analysis of the data as the marijuana industry matures. “The disparities in exclusionary discipline practices are really important to highlight for students of color,” said Vandeen Campbell, an assistant research professor with the Rutgers-Newark Department of Urban Education and Joseph C. Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies, who also worked on the study. “We don’t know if legalization will be related to these rates in any way—we’ll have to study it—but that is certainly something that needs to be changed and needs to be monitored.”