Four Sociology students presented the results of a five-month research project on Suffolk students' attitudes about marijuana decriminalization at the March Eastern Sociological Society Annual Meeting in Boston.

"A major concern about decriminalization of marijuana is that liberalization of the law will result in increased drug usage," said Erica Ferrelli. However, a sample of Suffolk students indicated that the majority of students supported, yet were unaffected by, the Massachusetts legislation.

Eighty-eight percent of Suffolk undergraduate students support the Massachusetts law decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana, according to results obtained by students Ashlyn Hackert, Gillian Murphy, Ferrelli, and Patrick Greaney. The results were taken from a sample of 175 students.

Support for the legislation enacted in 2009 varies by political party affiliation, with those identifying as Democrat significantly more likely to be in favor of the law, according to the study.

Life experiences such as knowing someone who has been arrested for possession, having a friend or family member using marijuana for medical purposes, or knowing someone who has lost his or her job during the recent recession increased the likelihood of support significantly.

Eighty percent are in favor of future legislation that permits the physician-prescribed medical use of marijuana.

The research also examines the impact that decriminalization has on students' drug-using behavior. Seventy-seven percent of the participants reported no change in the frequency of their marijuana use, and 88 percent reported that their use of illegal drugs has not changed.

The research was sponsored by the Center for Crime and Justice Policy Research under the direction of its co-director, Associate Professor Maureen Norton-Hawk.