Pubdate: Sun, 18 Sep 2011
Source: Herald, The (Everett, WA)
Copyright: 2011 The Daily Herald Co.
Author: David Sirota
Note: David Sirota is a syndicated columnist based in Denver.


In the firmament of celebrated Americana, there is Mom, apple pie,
football and beer -- but there most certainly is not marijuana. As it
relates to drugs, this bizarre culture has us implicitly accepting
that people will inevitably use mind-altering substances. But through
our statutes, we allow law-abiding citizens to use only one
recreational substance -- alcohol -- that just happens to be way more
hazardous than pot.

Such idiocy is the product of many variables. There's been
interest-group maneuvering and temperance-movement hypocrisy. There's
been hippie-hating rage and reefer-madness paranoia. And, most
invisibly, there's been college.

Though little noticed for its role in America's selective War on
Drugs, the university system has now become a key player shotgunning
the oxymoronic "alcohol is acceptable but pot is evil" mentality down
the beer-bong-primed throats of America's youth. To see how it all
works, consider the University of Colorado.

Both figuratively and literally immersed in alcohol, CU is the higher
education gem of a state whose governor famously made his millions on
beer breweries. Today, the school's catering service sells alcohol and
university officials license CU's logo for use on beer-drinking
merchandise. Meanwhile, every school year, CU forces kids to sit
through a convocation in a beer-themed arena -- the Coors Events
Center -- to learn about the "meaning and responsibilities" of student

Not surprisingly, CU now has a binge-drinking problem, as evidenced by
the recent news that another of its students died after a night of
heavy imbibing.

This headline-grabbing tragedy -- CU's second such fatality in less
than a decade -- is but one of the 600,000 alcohol-related student
injuries each year, according to the National Institute on Alcohol
Abuse and Alcoholism. But because (like other schools) CU is
intertwined with alcohol culture, the university has danced around the
issue -- simultaneously acknowledging the problem and not doing much
about it.

"(Alcohol) is the cause or primary factor in (a majority) of suicides,
unintentional deaths, physical injuries, distressed personal
relationships, legal problems, sexual assault, property damage and
academic failure," admitted CU's assistant vice chancellor Donald
Misch in 2010. Yet, Misch refrained from an abstinence message,
imploring students to "drink responsibly."

This libertarian attitude seems laudable for appreciating the fact
that kids will party regardless of prohibitionist rules. However, it
is counterproductive in the context of the school's no-tolerance
posture toward marijuana - a substance that has been connected to far
fewer injuries and no overdoses.

In recent years, the Boulder Daily Camera newspaper reports that
university regents have been looking to "crack down" on students'
unsanctioned "4/20" pro-pot protest because officials say it gives the
school a "party image" -- as if CU's beer-soaked tailgating
festivities don't do that already. While students over 21 may possess
alcohol in university residences, the Camera reports that "CU bans
marijuana in its dorms, even if students have medical licenses." And
whereas underage drinking typically results in soft punishments from
university officials, CU campus police have been increasing citations
for marijuana possession, which can result in students losing
financial aid.

CU, of course, embodies the norm in our universities, almost all of
which have harsher penalties for marijuana possession than alcohol
use. Though students at more than a dozen schools across the country
recently voted for referenda demanding administrators equalize
punishments, the initiatives have been ignored. Instead, school
officials are fighting to instill America's destructive drug-war
mentality in the next generation.

The result is the perpetuation of a toxic ethos that encourages us to
party hard, but only with a substance that is far more dangerous than
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MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.