Cannabis Legalization and College Mental Health

Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2021 Mar 3;23(4):17. doi: 10.1007/s11920-021-01231-1.


Purpose of review: To assess how the changing landscape of marijuana use affects the developing brain and mental health of college students.

Recent findings: Legalization of cannabis may facilitate use in the college population, with 38% of college students, whose brains are still maturing, regularly using marijuana products. Earlier and increased use, higher potency, pre-existing issues, and genetic predispositions increase negative outcomes by precipitating or worsening mental illness and ultimately impacting academic success. In the USA, the sharpest increase in cannabis users following legalization has been in the college age population (18-25 years of age). This population is especially vulnerable to the negative impacts and risks associated with cannabis use, including risk for the onset of major psychiatric illness. College mental health practitioners should remain informed about health effects of cannabis use, assess patient use on a regular basis, provide education and be familiar with interventions to reduce harm.

Keywords: Cannabis use; Cannabis use disorder; Cannabis-induced psychosis; College mental health; College students; Decriminalization; Legalization; Provider education.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cannabis*
  • Humans
  • Legislation, Drug
  • Marijuana Smoking*
  • Mental Health
  • Universities
  • Young Adult