Rutgers University Report Examines Cannabis Consumption Data

Rutgers University releases a study exploring the relationship between cannabis and race, gender, and other factors in New Jersey.
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A new study conducted by Rutgers University in New Jersey compiles data on cannabis consumption in relation to gender, age, and race.

On February 14, Rutgers New Jersey State Policy Lab released a public study that examined various cannabis consumption trends of 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. Although it claims to be the first study of its kind in New Jersey, it also points out that other states with more mature cannabis legalization industries produce similar data on an annual basis. It also shares that the data was pulled from multiple secondary sources, and cautions readers when considering the presented information.

One of the study’s key findings includes the breakdown of consumption by sex and age. The overall percentage of men (45.2 percent in New Jersey) and women (35.8 percent in New Jersey, and 39.6 percent in the US) who consume cannabis is slightly lower than the national average (48.6 percent and 39.6 percent respectively), according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Data Archives 2021. Between 2016-2019, data also reflects that the male/female breakdown was divided by 49.3 percent and 50.7 percent.

In terms of age ranges between 2016-2019, data showed that consumption for adults over age 26 increased, whereas usage decreased for the 18-25 age range. Youth consumption, including anyone between 12-17 years of age, also rose between 2017-2019 (about 70,000-78,000 individuals), which matched the overall national average.

According to Dean of Rutgers University-Newark School of Public Affairs and Administration Charles Menifield, one of the main goals of the study is also to identify if the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance and Marketplace Modernization Act is being followed effectively. “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 also shared that this data, as well as information gathered in the future, could help Rutgers University better understand the effects of cannabis 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. Then the question becomes, who is dropping out? Where do they live? What city are they in? What county are they in? 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.”

Additionally, Vandeen Campbell, assistant research professor with the Rutgers-Newark Department of Urban Education and Joseph C. Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies, explained that study should start now so that the data can be examined as the cannabis 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.”

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