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Marijuana: The Basics

While alcohol remains the most widely used and abused drug, nationally and at NDSU, marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug among college students and the number of students using marijuana nationally has increased in recent years. Results of the 2010 National CORE Alcohol & Other Drug Survey show 18.1% of college students across the country report using marijuana in the past 30 days, and 31.3% report using marijuana in the past year.  At NDSU, the 2012 CORE data show 9.5% of students have used marijuana in the past 30 days, and 21.7% have used in the past year.

Myths and Facts About Marijuana

Myths abound regarding marijuana use: Marijuana is harmless... Marijuana isn't addictive... Driving high is safer than driving drunk. But the truth is marijuana can cause major health, safety, social and learning problems, not to mention the legal consequences individuals may face.  At NDSU, marijuana users (even infrequent users) report two or more times as many incidents as non-users when it comes to binge drinking, driving under the influence, getting hurt or injured, experiencing memory loss, getting in trouble with authorities and seriously thinking about suicide. Challenging the myths related to marijuana is essential in order to provide an accurate view of the harm related to use.

Myth: Marijuana is harmless.

Fact: Use of marijuana can cause significant health, safety, social and learning problems. 

Short-term effects of marijuana use include anxiety, memory loss and trouble thinking and concentrating.  

College students who use marijuana frequently have reported increased memory loss, missing days of work or class, difficulty sleeping, procrastination and lower productivity. Effects such as these may be especially problematic, as these impairments can lead to poor academic performance.

Smoking marijuana also increases heart rate and, depending on conditions, can either raise or lower blood pressure,
causing additional risk for those with cardiovascular disease.

Myth: Marijuana is not addictive.

Fact: Recent research shows that use of marijuana can lead to physical dependence. 

Heavy users of marijuana may develop withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability, anxiety and difficulty sleeping, when they have not used the drug for a period of time.  Furthermore, many people may develop a social dependence on marijuana and continue to use it, regardless of how the drug interferes with other activities and relationships.

Myth: Marijuana is not as bad for you as tobacco.

Fact: Marijuana is linked to respiratory problems, just like tobacco.

While the co-occurrence of marijuana and tobacco smoking is high and makes differentiating between their individual negative effects difficult, research has shown that smoking ONE marijuana joint has the same impact on an individual’s large lung airways as smoking 16 tobacco cigarettes.

Additionally, marijuana smoke contains between 50-70% more cancer-causing chemicals than the levels found in tobacco smoke.  Smoking marijuana has been clearly linked to respiratory problems.


Myth: Driving high is safer than driving drunk.

Fact: Marijuana affects alertness, concentration, perception, coordination and reaction time.

Driving under the influence of marijuana is not safer than driving under the influence of any other intoxicating substance.  Habitual marijuana use is strongly associated with car crash injury in general, and this is particularly true when marijuana is used prior to driving.

Marijuana affects alertness, concentration, perception, coordination and reaction time – essential skills required for safe driving. While marijuana affects a different driving skill set than alcohol, even moderate doses of marijuana have been shown to reduce reaction time.


Myth: It's not a big deal if I get caught with marijuana.

Fact: As a Schedule I controlled substance, marijuana is illegal in the United States.

Possession of marijuana or drug paraphernalia for marijuana are considered misdemeanors, and delivery of marijuana or intent to deliver within 1,000 feet of a school (including a university) are class B felonies.  Penalties for these crimes range from a $1,000 fine and 30-days imprisonment for a class B misdemeanor to a $10,000 fine and up to 10 years’ imprisonment for a class B felony.

Students caught with marijuana will also be required to go through the university judicial process and will face additional sanctions, which may include removal from on-campus housing.  Furthermore, students who have been convicted of possession or sale of a controlled substance, such as marijuana, while receiving financial aid will become ineligible to receive financial aid for at least one year, and possibly indefinitely. 

Need Help?

Students struggling with marijuana use are encouraged to contact the NDSU Counseling Center for free, confidential screening and counseling services.  Call (701) 231-7671 for an appointment or visit the Looking for Help? page for a list of other resources available in the Fargo-Moorhead community.


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Want more information? Check out the Myths, Facts and Risks of Marijuana Use for College Students brochure.


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North Dakota State University
Phone: +1 (701) 231-5478
Campus address: West Dining Center Lower Level
Physical/delivery address: 1340 Administration Ave., Fargo, ND 58102
Mailing address: NDSU Dept. 5260 / PO Box 6050 / Fargo, ND 58108-6050
Page manager: Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Prevention Programs

Last Updated: Tuesday, April 21, 2015 2:23:20 PM
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