Correlates of Perceived Harmfulness of Regular Cannabis Use among Canadian University Students Before and After Legalization
Objective: Among a prospective sample of Canadian university students, this study aimed to: 1) document changes in cannabis use and perceived harmfulness of use before and after the legalization of recreational cannabis; 2) examine correlates of perceived harmfulness; and 3) explore changes in perceived harmfulness as a function of cannabis use patterns. Method: A random sample of 871 students at one western Canadian university were assessed pre- and post-legalization of recreational cannabis. Descriptive and inferential statistics were used to explore changes in cannabis use and perceived harmfulness. A random effects model was developed to assess whether cannabis legalization was associated with perceptions of harmfulness of regular cannabis use. Results: Twenty-six percent of the sample used cannabis during the past three months at both timepoints. The majority of the sample perceived regular cannabis use as a high-risk behaviour at each timepoint (57.3% and 60.9%, respectively). Results from the random effects model showed that after controlling for covariates, cannabis legalization was not associated with changes in perceived harmfulness. Perceptions of harm remained relatively stable regardless of cannabis use pattern. Respondents who endorsed cannabis use at both timepoints reported a significant increase in their frequency of cannabis use post-legalization. Conclusions: Legalization of cannabis for recreational use was not associated with substantive changes in perceptions of harm among post-secondary students, yet it might lead to increases in cannabis use among those who already use the substance. Ongoing monitoring of policies is needed, as are targeted public health initiatives to identify post-secondary students who are at risk for cannabis-related consequences.
Copyright (c) 2022 Joel Mader, Jacqueline M. Smith, Jennifer Smith, Arfan R. Afzal, Amelia M. Arria, Brittany A. Bugbee, Ken C. Winters
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