A recent proposal is weighing the value of pot in more than just grams.
A new proposal called the Emerald Initiative calls on college and university presidents to consider reducing penalties for marijuana use as a way to lower alcohol abuse.
Drafted by the nonprofit Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation, the proposal claims that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol to users and to society and advocates that colleges punish for marijuana use no more than for alcohol use.
"I am generally supportive of encouraging deliberation on topics but probably wouldn't sign something unless it directly relates to Penn's missions," said Penn President Amy Gutmann, who added she had seen too little of the issue to take a definitive stance.
The proposal is a response to last summer's Amethyst Initiative, which encourages debate on lowering the legal drinking age to 18 and has been signed by presidents of 135 colleges and universities to date. Gutmann chose not to sign that proposal, though she agreed the age should be lowered.
"The government and universities clearly acknowledge that alcohol is a problem on campuses, but all their policies to prevent it - 'Drink Responsibly' campaigns, for example - just promote the notion that students should be drinking," said SAFER executive director Mason Tvert.
The Emerald Initiative was sent last week to presidents who signed the Amethyst Initiative, as well as to schools that have passed SAFER referendums.
"Given the controversial nature of marijuana and, especially, the health/mental health impact of marijuana use on the developing brain, I think that any dialogue would need to include a comprehensive look at the impact of marijuana on college students' overall health," Julie Lyzinski, director of Penn's Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Program Initiatives, wrote in an e-mail.
"Of course, there are negative effects to marijuana, just as there are to overeating or talking on your cell phone, but does that mean we need to criminalize it?" Tvert asked.
The initiative cites alcohol's potentially lethal nature and tendency to cause violent behavior, neither of which have been linked to marijuana use.
But at Penn, "students who report using marijuana are also our highest-risk alcohol and 'other' drug users," Lyzinski said. "Legalizing marijuana will not necessarily result in lowering alcohol abuse."
Penn considers both underage drinking and marijuana use violations of its alcohol and drug policies and of the law, according to Lyzinski.
But Tvert argues that the government has prohibited marijuana for "entirely arbitrary reasons," citing political and ideological motives.
For those who dismiss substance use altogether in favor of "natural highs," Tvert added that the proposal recognizes abstinence is not an alternative to alcohol for students seeking intoxication.
"It's time we stop trying to get college students to drink responsibly and start encouraging them to party responsibly," Tvert said.Comments powered by Disqus
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