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US College Students Using More Marijuana, Less Tobacco


Medical marijuana clone plants are shown at a medical marijuana dispensary in Oakland, Calif.

Medical marijuana clone plants are shown at a medical marijuana dispensary in Oakland, Calif.

Marijuana use among college students is on the rise in the United States.

Studies of American college students show that daily marijuana use was more popular than cigarette smoking for the first time last year.

Studies found that 5.9 percent of college students said they use marijuana nearly every day. Students claimed to have smoked at least 20 times in the prior 30 days. That is a 3.5 percent increase from 2007, and the highest rate since 1980.

Only five percent of college students reported using tobacco daily.

More students are experimenting with the drug for the first time, as well.

In this Feb. 20, 2015 photo, Alaska Cannabis Club CEO Charlo Greene smokes a joint at the medical marijuana dispensary in Anchorage, Alaska.

In this Feb. 20, 2015 photo, Alaska Cannabis Club CEO Charlo Greene smokes a joint at the medical marijuana dispensary in Anchorage, Alaska.

Twenty-one percent of students reported having used marijuana once or more in the prior 30 days. That is a 4 percent increase from 2006. Thirty-four percent of those questioned said they used marijuana in the prior year, four percent more than in 2006. However, the levels appear to have leveled off since 2014.

The University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future study reported the findings. Lloyd Johnston was the lead researcher. He said, "It's clear that for the past seven or eight years there has been an increase in marijuana use among the nation's college students. And this largely parallels an increase we have been seeing among high school seniors."

Less Dangerous Than Tobacco

Mr. Johnston said the main driver for the increased use of marijuana is the belief that it is not as dangerous as tobacco. He pointed to studies of high school graduates between the ages of 19 and 22. In 2006, 55 percent of those questioned said regular use of marijuana was dangerous. Eight years later, that number dropped to 35 percent.

He said this is probably a result of increased legalization of medical and recreational marijuana use. It is legal to use marijuana for recreational purposes in four U.S. states and three U.S. cities. Twelve other states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes.

I’m Jill Robbins.

VOA’s Matthew Hilburn reported on this story. George Grow adapted his story for Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.

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Words in This Story

marijuana – n. a plant that, when dried, can be used as a drug or medicine

cigarette – n. a smoking product made from finely cut tobacco leaves

parallels – v. to move or extend in the same direction as something else

seniors – n. students in their final year of high school

graduate(s) – n. someone who has completed a study program

legalization – n. the process of removing a rule or law against something

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