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The Opinions of College Students on the Legalization of Marijuana

Erika Eckholm, Morgie Ege, Brett Knecht, Andie Oswald,

North Dakota State University
Every face of the media has been depicting different sides on the topic of the usage of
marijuana. A group of researchers chose to research the opinions of a diverse group of students
on the NDSU campus. The NDSU community is an interest of study as there is not evidence of
support nor opposal of the legalization of marijuana. College students are the heart of Fargo itself
and make up a large portion of the city population, thus creating a lot of pull with their opinions.
After Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize marijuana for recreational use,
other states around the country have tried to follow suit and legalize marijuana to some extent.
Some people argue the advantages and disadvantages of marijuana legalization and how it should
be used. Using a free-survey website, researchers distributed a voluntary ten question survey to
NDSU students. With the collected data, graphs were created using the averages of the results.
The graphs were then analyzed to find patterns and trends showing the relationships between
questions. The collected opinion on legalizing marijuana carried a significant 70% prolegalization for marijuana regarding both recreational and medical uses.
The legalization of marijuana has become a controversial topic over the years. There are
different opinions on both sides of the topic. People that are in favor of legalization of marijuana
may believe it has medical use or that recreational use does not cause harm. People that are
against legalization might say that marijuana is a dangerous drug that should be kept away from
the public. Others may think there are benefits to its medical use but not for recreational use. As
students going to college in North Dakota, we are interested in knowing what our campuss
opinion on this issue is. With this year being an election year, it is important to have a general
understanding of what people believe is the right thing to do. It is hypothesized that a majority of
the students surveyed will be in support of legalization of marijuana for recreational use as well
as medical use. The opinions of college students on this topic has been increasingly showing
support. This research will be significant in gaining a greater understanding of the opinions held
by college students in North Dakota on marijuana legalization.
The controversy on marijuana legalization is divided between political, religious and
scientific viewpoints. According to an article from University of Nebraska-Lincolns student
newspaper, The Daily Nebraskan, those who are pro-legalization often cite its medical benefits
for cancer patients, its lack of harmful effects and addiction and argue its legalization would
result in a population reduction in correctional facilities and prisons, while the opposition
maintains the dangers of marijuana as a gateway drug and health hazards due to toxicity.1 There
are many advantages and disadvantages that can help determine whether or not it should be

For those that are in favor of legalization, the supposed benefit in medical use is one big
reason for its support. According to the article 23 Health Benefits of Marijuana by Welsh and
Loria, there are at least two active chemicals in marijuana that researchers think have medicinal
applications: cannabidiol (CBD) - which seems to impact the brain without a high - and
tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) - which has pain relieving (and other) properties.10 Studies have
shown that marijuana can be used to treat glaucoma, control epileptic seizures, decreases the
symptoms of a severe seizure disorder known as Dravets Syndrome, ease the pain of multiple
sclerosis and other types of muscle spasms. It may also help with treatment of irritable bowel
syndrome, arthritis discomfort, and tremors for people with Parkinsons disease. It could be
helpful in reducing some of the pain and nausea from chemotherapy, and stimulates appetite in
cancer patients. Other health benefits may include protecting the brain after a stroke, protection
from concussions and trauma, and treatment for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Marijuana has also been shown to slow the progression of Alzheimers disease, lessen side
effects from treating hepatitis C and increase treatment effectiveness, improve the symptoms of
the autoimmune disorder Lupus, reduce Crohns disease symptoms, and even help keep people
skinny by helping metabolism.10
Other benefits of legalizing marijuana involve the economy, crime statistics, and tax
revenue. In an article written one year after Colorado became one of the first states to legalize
recreational use of marijuana, research shows that violent crime in the state, burglaries, and
overall property crime rates decreased. Tax revenue from retail cannabis sales increased and
helped the economy overall. Marijuana-related arrests and traffic fatalities decreased, while
employment rates increased due to the jobs that were created due to the marijuana industry.7
There may be many advantages to legalizing recreational marijuana, but there are also
many disadvantages. There are negative effects of smoking too much [marijuana] or using it
for non-medicinal purposes and that when overused or abused, [it] can lead to dependency and
mess with the user's memory and emotions.11 The high from marijuana comes from the
chemical THC. When THC comes in contact with brain cells, it causes the release of dopamine,
a feel-good brain chemical. But when the rewards system is overstimulated, it can cause a
dependence (or in extreme cases addiction) on whatever is providing the rewarding feeling,
causing apathy and dependence on the drug. It also blocks memory formation and decreases
balance. It may increase the risk of depression, have side effects of intense anxiety, fear, distrust,
or panic, and cause audio and visual hallucinations. Other side effects include red eyes, dry
mouth, and increased appetite. It has also been shown to decrease the amount sleep in users and
cause their heart rates to increase.11
There are also many disadvantages following the legalization of recreational use in
Colorado. Some marijuana that is sold to general public may be contaminated with mold.
Bordering states have issues with Colorado because their border law enforcement officials have
been overwhelmed by cannabis possession arrests, causing a strain on their justice system.7

Another issue is that there are limited places for legal consumption. Especially for tourists, there
is sometimes no place to legally consume the product theyre acquiring because its only legal
to consume in a private residence.7 There are pros and cons to this topic that should be
considered when deciding if marijuana should be legal or not.
Literature Review:
Legalization History:
There has been a long history involving the legalization of cannabis in the United States.
According to the article The forbidden fruit and the tree of knowledge: An inquiry into the legal
history of American marijuana prohibition by Bonnie and Whitebread, regulation of Cannabis
sativa began as early as 1619. After many previous regulations, cannabis was categorized by the
Controlled Substances Act of 1970 as a Schedule I drug, which has high potential for abuse, no
medical use, and is deemed unsafe to use without medical supervision. There have been multiple
efforts to reschedule cannabis, but these efforts have failed. The United States Supreme Court
ruled that the federal government has a right to regulate and criminalize cannabis, even for
medical purposes.3
On November 6th 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize the
sale and possession of cannabis for recreational use since the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937.
Marijuana is regulated in a way similar to alcohol, allowing possession of up to an ounce for
adults ages 21 and older, with provisions similar to those against drunk driving. Both state
amendments provide for commercial cultivation and sales, subject to regulation and taxes. An
issue still remains with these state laws conflicting with federal law.9
Previous Research:
Earlier surveys have been done in regards to adult opinion on marijuana legalization.
According to a CBS News poll from April 2015 that surveyed 1,012 adults nationwide, 60% of
people ages 18-29 think that the use of marijuana should be legal.6 This survey also explained
that 60% of Democrats, 55% of Independents, and 34% of Republicans think marijuana use
should be legal. North Dakota is typically a conservative Republican state so it would be
interesting to know what the college students viewpoints are.
In a poll conducted by the University of North Dakota College of Business and Public
Administration in October 2014 that used landline and cellphone interviews of 505 randomly
selected North Dakotans 18 and older who said they were likely to vote, 68% opposed legalizing
recreational marijuana use in North Dakota, while 24% supported recreational pot use.8 Among
those surveyed ages 18 to 30, 50% strongly supported medical marijuana. Also, 50% of males
supported medical marijuana, compared to 46% of females.8 Moving forward, our research
attempts to gain a better understanding of North Dakota State University student viewpoints and
provides updated information to fill in the gaps of preceding studies.
Survey Administration:

For the purposes of this research, surveys were given to students that attend North Dakota
State University and were between the ages of 18-24. North Dakota State University students
were chosen because they were easily accessible to the researchers. This age range was chosen
because it is believed that the greatest number of college students reside there.. A mass email
was used to distribute the surveys electronically to get a large sample size. These emails
provided a link to the Survey Monkey website where participants were able to complete the
survey. Surveys were used because they are inexpensive and the website allowed up to 100
responses to be collected. Participation was voluntary and names were anonymous. There was
no compensation for completing the survey, but the participants were thanked for their time. The
survey contained ten multiple-choice questions that gauged the students opinions.
Demographical information was collected and the questions asked were unbiased and objective
relating to the topic of marijuana legalization. An example of the complete survey can be found
in Appendix I, and the results in Appendix II. After the data was collected, it was analyzed for
further discussion.
The responses were tallied up and the data was analyzed. Data from responses that were
not enrolled at NDSU was omitted as this research focuses on NDSU student opinions. An
average of the preferred answers was calculated and graphed. Graphs were created using the
Survey Monkey website for all ten questions. The common trends and recurring themes were
studied. Questions regarding political stance, whether marijuana should be legal or not, whether
alcohol or marijuana is more dangerous, and whether legalization should be decided by the state
or federal government were studied more in depth.
The results indicate that the majority of NDSU students have an overall opinion on
legalizing marijuana. From the survey researchers found that 70% of NDSU students were prolegalization of marijuana (Figure 3). The participants ages ranged from 18-24, with a few from
an older group on campus (Figure 1). Though there was no significant difference in political
views (Figure 2), almost 50% of the people thought that marijuana laws should be regulated by
the state government rather than the federal government (Figure 4). A majority of participants
agreed that alcohol was, overall, more dangerous than marijuana (Figure 5). Complete results
regarding all ten questions can be found in Appendix II.

Figure 1. Ages of volunteer recipients.

Figure. 2. Volunteers political stances.

Figure 3. Opinion of marijuana legalization.

Figure 4. Opinions reported

on whether legalization
should be federal or state government.

Figure 5. Students believe alcohol

to be a greater danger than marijuana.
The current study has provided new information along with supporting our hypothesis
that the usage of marijuana has not only grown as a recreational substance in the region, but also
is being supported as a medical supplement. Even with it currently being an election year and
almost tied political stances, each group show an overwhelmingly support of marijuana
legalization. This research is significant in gaining a greater understanding on the opinions of this
legalization, within the college body, at NDSU. Combining the results, along with the 2014
North Dakota poll, the data created a broad brush of ideas on the opinions of North Dakotans.
These findings can foresee a conclusion on how voting will lean when the time comes, if it
does,on the sanction of marijuana. With research like this becoming more prevalent, it may have
a chance of encouraging the local government to create a relevant bill, sooner than later.
Perhaps, even combining similar studies from other colleges, it would force the federal
government into addressing this topic.
There were many limitations to the allotted survey. With the results given, researchers
realized that there were discrepancies due to having a small sample size of volunteers, along with
a small variance in ages participating. Having a larger volunteer basis could have given a more
diverse feedback. This may have been an effect of the method of distributing the surveys, strictly
email distributed surveys may have a larger chance of being ignored, or misplaced within the
email server. On the contrary, strictly doing surveys on college distribution would create a gap in
the students who do not attend college classes. Thus, future research of creating a survey
distributed not only via social media, but also on college distribution may create the best and
largest data pool.
Appendix I
Survey Example

1. Are you currently enrolled at NDSU?

2. What is your age?
18 to 24
25 to 34
35 to 44
45 to 54
55 to 64
65 to 74
75 or older
3. What is your gender?
4. What political party do you most closely identify with?
Other (please specify)
5. Do you think the use of marijuana should be legal, or not?
Not legal
6. Do you think laws regarding whether the use of marijuana is legal or not should be
determined by the federal government, or left to each individual state government to
Federal government
State government
7. Which comes closer to your view about the use of marijuana by adults?
It should be legal only for personal use
It should be legal only for medicinal use
It should be legal for both personal and medicinal use
It should not be legal
8. Which do you think is more harmful to a person's health: alcohol or marijuana?
Other (please specify)
9. Regardless of your opinion about marijuana, do you think that the sale and use of
marijuana eventually will be legal nationwide, or not?
Other (please specify)
10. Keeping in mind that all of your answers in this survey are confidential, have you,
yourself, ever tried marijuana?
Prefer not to answer

Appendix II
Survey Results

Allen, M. Students voice
opinions on marijuana, increasing prolegalization sentiment. The Daily
Nebraskan. April 20, 2015. Accessed February 21, 2016.

Bershidsky, L. Colorados may not be the best way to legalize pot. Bloomberg View. February
29, 2016. Accessed March 2, 2016.
Bonnie, R. J. and Whitebread II, C.H. The forbidden fruit and the tree of knowledge: An inquiry
into the legal history of American marijuana prohibition. Schaffer Library of Drugs. May 2011. Accessed February 26, 2016.
DrugRehab. Pros and cons of legalizing recreational marijuana. DrugRehab. 2016. Accessed March 4, 2016.
NYLN. 19 primary pros and cons of legalizing weed. Youth Leader Blog. June 12, 2015. Accessed February 21, 2016.
Polling Report, Inc. Illegal Drugs. Polling Report, Inc. April 12, 2015. Accessed March 2, 2016.
Rough, L. One year later: the positives and negatives of Colorados legal recreational cannabis
market. Leafly. January 14, 2015. Accessed February 21, 2016.
Springer, P. Poll: N.D. accepts medical marijuana, not recreational. The Bismarck Tribune.
October 17, 2014. Accessed March 2,
9. Vekshin, A. Washington, Colorado allow recreational use of marijuana. Bloomberg News.
November 7, 2012.
ton-Colorado-Allow-Recreational-Use-of-4016776.php Accessed February 29, 2016.
10. Welsh, J. and Loria, K. 23 Health benefits of marijuana. Business Insider. April 20, 2014. Accessed February 21,
11. Welsh, J. and Spector, D. What marijuana does to your brain and body. Business Insider. April 20,
2013. Accessed
February 21, 2016.