Changes in Cannabis Consumption Among College Students During COVID-19

J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2022 Jan;83(1):55-63. doi: 10.15288/jsad.2022.83.55.


Objective: College campuses closed in March 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, disrupting the lives of students. The goal of the present study was to examine whether cannabis use changed from before campus departures prompted by COVID-19 to after campus departures and after the semester ended--and if living situation explained observed changes. We also examined changes in specific formulations of cannabis and self-reported reasons for perceived changes in use frequency.

Method: A sample of 223 college student cannabis users (61% female) from three universities completed two online surveys (one in May 2020 assessing cannabis use pre-campus closure [pre-closure] and since campus closed [post-closure-1], and another in September 2020 assessing cannabis use since remote classes ended [post-closure-2]).

Results: Any use of cannabis and use of each specific formulation (leaf, edibles, concentrates) declined from pre-closure to post-closure-1, whereas the frequency of use did not change. Any cannabis use declined for those who stayed living dependently or moved to dependent living. Leaf use declined for all groups, concentrate use declined only for those who moved from independent to dependent living, and edible use declined only for those who stayed living dependently or moved to dependent living. Cannabis use did not change between post-closure-1 and post-closure-2, regardless of living situation stability or transition.

Conclusions: Overall, among a sample of cannabis-using college students, the prevalence of any cannabis use, but not frequency of use, was reduced during the pandemic. Living with parents appears to be protective against frequent cannabis use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Cannabis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pandemics
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Students
  • Universities