Pubdate: Thu, 17 Mar 2005
Source: Daily Camera (CO)
Copyright: 2005 The Daily Camera.
Source: Daily Camera (CO)
Author: Kim Castleberry, Camera Staff Writer
Cited: SAFER
Cited: National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Students - United States)


Student Government Wants Penalty for Marijuana Reduced

An underage University of Colorado student who gets caught drinking a
beer can prepare to spend a semester on probation, do some community
service and attend a $100 drug and alcohol program.

A student who gets caught smoking marijuana can bank on roughly the
same punishment -- and the student government says that's too much.
Student leaders approved a referendum this week calling for CU to
acknowledge the drug as a relatively safe alternative to alcohol.
Sponsors of the proposal said they want the university to make that
distinction in the way it punishes students.

"There's definitely a lot of student support for this," said CU
freshman Vanessa Cisneros, the proposal's main sponsor. "Everyone
knows that a lot of people die every year from alcohol, but nobody
dies from marijuana."

Cisneros said she's collected nearly all of the 1,000 signatures
needed to get the issue on the ballot in time for April elections. If
it passes, the university is not bound to change any policy.

Organizers said they hope university leaders will at least get the
message that marijuana causes fewer problems on campus. Their proposal
also calls for CU to do a study comparing the frequency of
alcohol-related to drug-related crimes. In 2004, there were 47
drug-related offenses and 224 alcohol violations, CU police said.

Campaign adviser Mason Tvert said violent crimes, such as sexual
assault, that sometimes result from alcohol abuse are not found with
marijuana use, which makes it a safer choice.

"We do not advocate the use of marijuana, but we are advocating for a
better public policy that does not indirectly push kids toward
drinking," said Tvert, the director of SAFER, a Boulder-based
nonprofit that aims to increase public awareness on the differences
between the two substances.

"The school should say, 'You're going to be punished more for using
something that could potentially kill you versus something that has
never killed anyone.'"

Alcohol consumption among college students contributes to about 1,400
student deaths, 500,000 injuries and 70,000 sexual assaults each year,
according to a 2002 study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse
and Alcoholism.

Bob Maust, CU's alcohol-education coordinator, agreed that problems
typically associated with alcohol abuse are not found with marijuana.
He said that while the argument for lessening the school's punishment
against marijuana users is a "good" one, he's not sure where it will

"It's true, you don't hear about people smoking themselves to death
like you do with alcohol," Maust said. "The problem is that there
isn't political will for bringing that kind of change."

But the Boulder chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of
Marijuana Laws is working to alter the political climate. The group is
trying to get the city's present fine of $100 decreased to $5 for
those caught with small amounts of pot.
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