Pubdate: Tue, 06 Apr 2010
Source: Daily Bruin (UCLA, CA Edu)
Copyright: 2010, ASUCLA Student Media
Author: Cristina Chang


Daniel Panzer said he tried everything to fight off his insomnia.

But the sleeping pills prescribed to the first-year chemistry student 
by his doctor were not working. Only medical marijuana, he said, 
would relax him and help him sleep.

However, the residence halls have a strict policy against its usage, 
even though Panzer had the necessary paperwork to prove he needed 
marijuana. He said he would sometimes have to walk to a friend's 
apartment to smoke a joint and then walk back in order to fall asleep.

"I feel like a criminal sometimes for following the law," Panzer, 
co-president of UCLA's Students for Sensible Drug Policy, said. "It's 
frustrating because I'm not doing anything wrong."

Proponents of cannabis decriminalization on college campuses are 
hoping to use Alcohol Awareness Month, which began Thursday, to 
bolster their argument.

"The fact is 90 percent of America has used alcohol.  We're not 
adding another substance, we're providing an alternative," said Mason 
Tvert, executive director of Safer Alternative for Enjoyable 
Recreation. "These two (alcohol and marijuana) are the most popular 
recreational drugs in the world, and students, like any adult, should 
have the choice for a less-adverse drug when they recreate."

The organization introduced the Emerald Initiative, which calls on 
campuses to allow the use of marijuana as a means to reduce excessive 
use of alcohol, he said.

This proposal is a response to the Amethyst Initiative, which is 
endorsed by more than 130 universities and calls for a debate to 
lower the drinking age to promote less-dangerous drinking.

The group has worked with students from 13 college campuses to pass 
the referendum, which would make marijuana penalties no higher than 
those for alcohol.  UCLA is not currently considering the measure.

"We recognize that (campuses) were punishing students more for 
marijuana than alcohol, sending a dangerous message that alcohol use 
is acceptable when it's more dangerous," he said.

Tvert said he believes the legalization of marijuana will lower the 
rate of excessive drinking on campuses.

However, Mark Kleiman, UCLA professor of public policy, said this is 
not the case.

"It would be a great argument, if it were true," he said, adding that 
such a scenario would present a good argument for cannabis legalization.

While he said it is possible to say drinking is bad, he said there is 
no reason to say that the decriminalization of marijuana would lower 
alcohol use.

Nevertheless, he did say alcohol usage is much more dangerous.

Tvert said there are 600,000 student assaults each year from alcohol 
and 17,000 related deaths each year, but for marijuana, the Centers 
for Disease Control and Prevention has not attributed any death or 
serious chronic illness.

Opponents, however, argue that marijuana use is dangerous and should 
not be legalized.

"Medical questions are best decided not by popular vote, but by 
science," said R. Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National 
Drug Control Policy, in an online statement.

He said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has stated that raw 
marijuana plants are not medicine and that legalized, regulated drugs 
cause damage to those who abuse them.

"(The issue) is especially meaningful in California, with the issue 
of legalization on the ballot," said Lorie Singer, co-president of 
Students for a Sensible Drug Policy, in reference to a November 
ballot proposition that would permit Californians 21 and older to 
possess up to an ounce of marijuana.

She added that since the campus policy on alcohol is less 
prohibitive, it provides a subtle encouragement to choose alcohol.

"When people move into the dorms, we get how to use alcohol safely to 
imply that there is a way to use it safely, but not marijuana," she said.

Panzer said that, while decriminalizing marijuana on college campuses 
may not necessarily decrease excessive drinking, it does give 
students an alternative.

"It's not like people will stop drinking; people still drink and 
smoke pot .. but if people go out and become intoxicated, they should 
have an option between something that is mild that can be smoked.
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