Pubdate: Thu, 20 Aug 2009
Source: AlterNet (US Web)
Copyright: 2009 Chelsea Green Publishing
Authors: Paul Armentano and Steve Fox and Mason Tvert, Chelsea Green Publishing
Note: Steve Fox is director of government relations for the Marijuana 
Policy Project. Paul Armentano is the deputy director of NORML (the 
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), and Mason 
Tvert is co-founder of Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation 
(SAFER). They are the co-authors of the book Marijuana Is Safer: So 
Why Are We Driving People to Drink (2009, Chelsea Green).
Also: the link to the Amazon page
Referenced: Marijuana is Safer

Campus Hypocrisy:


The Stats for Death and Injury Tied to Alcohol on Campus Are 
Staggering, Yet Students Are More Harshly Punished for Pot -- Which 
Is Far More Benign.

Two weeks ago, we published an excerpt from the recently released 
Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? It was so 
well received, we asked the authors for a second excerpt, which is 
included below. If you have found one or both of these excerpts 
compelling, we encourage you to participate in The Great Marijuana 
Book Bomb taking place today 
(August 20). The authors have organized a one-day campaign to drive 
the book to the top of the rankings. If you want to see it 
reach #1, click on the book title above and make a purchase of your own.

Campuses are a microcosm of the broader society when it comes to 
alcohol and marijuana use. Although both substances are illegal for 
students under the age of twenty-one, the punishments for those who 
use them are far from equal. Most universities impose policies 
mandating that students who are busted using cannabis will face more 
severe sanctions than students caught drinking alcohol. We are aware 
of numerous students who have been removed from campus housing for 
possessing a small amount of marijuana in their dorm room. Yet these 
same students would have received a slap on the wrist -- most likely 
in the form of a warning or campus probation -- if alcohol had been present.

Take Purdue University in Indiana, for example. This school imposes a 
"zero tolerance" policy for students who are caught with marijuana in 
their dorms. This means that the possession of any amount of cannabis 
will result in immediate cancellation of their campus housing 
contract. By contrast, Purdue employs a "three strikes" policy for 
underage possession of alcohol. Bob Heitert, director of 
administration for university residence halls at Purdue, justifies 
the school's inconsistent policy this way: "Illegal drugs are against 
the law for everyone, while alcohol is against the law for a larger 
portion of students but not for everyone. Society seems to take a 
different approach to alcohol than they do to illegal drugs. We 
reflect that societal difference."

Universities like Purdue may be bound by a responsibility to punish 
behavior that is not consistent with the law. But they are not 
legally obligated to establish stringent penalties, such as enforcing 
zero-tolerance housing policies or barring students with minor pot 
violations from ever holding student office, as is the policy of the 
University of Maryland at College Park. More importantly, they are 
under no legal obligation to treat students who illegally possess 
marijuana on campus more severely than they sanction students who 
illegally possess alcohol. Yet most colleges do - and often for no 
reason other than a perceived need to reflect existing societal 
differences. And by maintaining these disparate punishments in the 
face of student opposition, university governments and their boards 
of trustees are making a conscious, if inadvertent, decision to steer 
students toward the use of alcohol.

And what are the ramifications of these kinds of campus policies? 
First, as we all know, the use of alcohol by college students is 
rampant. According to data from the Harvard School of Public Health 
College Alcohol Study, approximately 80 percent of college students 
drink alcohol. Figures for binge drinking are even more startling. 
For instance, more than 44 percent of students surveyed in 2001 said 
that they had engaged in binge drinking in the preceding two weeks, 
and more than 22 percent had done so at least three times in that 
time period. Predictably, these frequent binge drinkers?and those 
around them?often suffer as a result. As described by George Dowdall 
in College Drinking, "[F]requent binge drinkers were 7 to 10 times 
more likely than the nonbinge drinkers to get into trouble with the 
campus police, damage property or get injured, not use protection 
when having sex, or engage in unplanned sexual activity."

The social consequences of all this student drinking are even more 
alarming. At the most tragic level, alcohol abuse is a leading cause 
of fatalities on college campuses. In 2001, there were an estimated 
1,700 alcohol-related unintentional-injury deaths among college 
students and others aged 18 to 24. But these deaths are just the tip 
of the alcohol-related-injury iceberg. Researchers estimate that 
every year approximately 600,000 students between the ages of 18 and 
24 are unintentionally injured while under the influence of alcohol. 
Of course, those who drink are not the only ones adversely affected. 
Even more disturbing is the number of injuries to others that are 
caused by students under the influence of alcohol. Each year 
approximately 700,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are 
assaulted by students who have been drinking, and close to 100,000 
students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of alcohol-related 
sexual assault or date rape. Yet these raw numbers only tell part of 
the story. The much broader impact of alcohol abuse on campus is 
evident when one looks at the percentage of violent acts that are 
booze-related. According to a 1994 report by the National Center on 
Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA), 95 percent of all campus 
assaults are alcohol-related, and 90 percent of all reported campus 
rapes involve a victim or an assailant who has been drinking alcohol.

"Virtually every sexual assault is associated with alcohol abuse. 
Almost every assault of any kind is related to drinking." - 
University of Maryland President C.D. "Dan" Mote, August 2008

University officials are well aware of these startling statistics. As 
is evident by the quote above, campus leaders not only recognize that 
alcohol is a frequent cause of injuries and assaults, but many also 
believe that it is a factor in almost all campus assaults. Think 
about this point for a moment. These same officials are aware that 
students use marijuana on their campuses?most likely to a greater 
extent than they would like. Yet despite pot's popularity among the 
student body, you rarely if ever hear university officials or campus 
police publicly blaming assaults or rapes on marijuana abuse. In 
other words, the people responsible for maintaining safety on college 
campuses recognize that alcohol use frequently leads to widespread 
injuries and violent student behavior while marijuana use does not. 
You would think that leaders of institutions of higher learning would 
rationally and impartially examine this data and act accordingly. Think again.

Confronted with this nationwide college-drinking epidemic, university 
leaders have generally concluded that the best approach to this 
problem is to instruct students, including underage students, how to 
consume booze more responsibly. In short, universities are 
implicitly, and in some cases explicitly, endorsing alcohol as the 
only acceptable recreational substance of choice for students.

Here is a prime example. In the introduction of our book we described 
a prominent effort among university presidents to address the problem 
of alcohol abuse and related violence on campuses. The more than 130 
members of the "Amethyst Initiative" have publicly called for a 
national debate on lowering the drinking age to eighteen years of 
age. Proponents of such a change in the law believe it will bring 
student drinking out into the open and will lead to more responsible behavior.

However one feels about the merits of this proposal, there is no 
arguing that it is based on the assumption that college students are 
going to drink alcohol one way or the other, and that the best 
outcome our society can hope for is some kind of moderation of this 
behavior. But we contend that this assessment is incomplete and pose 
an alternative question. That is: If both alcohol and marijuana are 
currently illegal for those under the age of twenty-one, why is it 
acceptable to encourage young college students to "drink 
responsibly," but not appropriate to suggest that they should "party 
responsibly" with a less harmful substance like marijuana instead?

Don't we care enough about the health and safety of our nation's 
college students to simply have this discussion?
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