Members and supporters of the nonprofit organization SAFER Choice have recently been gathering signatures on the CSU campus to support a referendum they hope will reduce university marijuana penalties to the same as those for alcohol.
"Our mission is to educate people in Colorado about the consequences of alcohol," said SAFER Choice Executive Director Mason Tvert. "By having policies that punish marijuana use, it steers kids towards using alcohol."
SAFER is an acronym for Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation. Volunteers organized the recent student-run referendum effort. The group had to collect at least 2,085 signatures from CSU students to have the referendum considered for placement on the upcoming Associated Students of CSU ballot.
The group collected about 2,500 signatures, but an anonymous person contested the referendum.
If all required signatures are verified as full-time, fee-paying students (six credits or more) and it passes the anonymous person's challenge, it will go on the ASCSU ballot.
"We basically had to verify all signatures. We have administrators on campus who can verify all of those signatures," said Cord Brundage, ASCSU interim executive elections adviser.
It will take a lot of time to verify each and every signature, and the verification deadline for RAMWeb is at noon Thursday, Brundage said.
"We'd like to be able to find out as soon as possible. There are a lot of people working on it," she said.
Tvert said the detrimental effects of marijuana are less than those of alcohol.
"We don't feel it is a good public policy to tell students they will get in less trouble for using this thing (alcohol) that can kill," Tvert said. "(There is) no finding of marijuana having ever killed anyone from its use."
Pam McCracken, director for CSU's Center for Drug and Alcohol Education, said the marijuana's effects depend on how it is used.
"(It depends) on how much and how often a person uses it," McCracken said. "Driving a vehicle while high is different from getting high and playing video games."
McCracken said CSU handles alcohol and marijuana violations on a case-by-case basis.
"Marijuana is an illegal substance," McCracken said. "Everybody has to adhere to state and federal laws. People on a college campus are not going to be treated any different. At CSU, we treat each case according to the context of what happened and the individual."
She said alcohol might increase aggression more so than marijuana, but there are health ramifications resulting from marijuana use.
"Marijuana users are doing a lot of damage to themselves," McCracken said. "It's an illegal substance, so there's more of a hidden use."
Matt Friedell, a junior economics student who is involved with SAFER Choice, said he heard about the program the week before Spring Break and chose to get involved.
"I had been doing research on my own of the health effects of marijuana compared to those of alcohol," Friedell said. "I believed in the cause and wanted to dedicate my time to it. They had me out there getting signatures and telling people what they're about."
Friedell believes in the political process of the student body, and if the referendum is put on the ASCSU ballot, it will represent the voice of the students.
"Most people associate marijuana (as bad) because they have been raised to believe it is a bad thing," Friedell said. "I guess to refute the signatures by an anonymous person is a little unfair."
Tvert said the referendum has nothing to do with the law, just CSU policy.
"There have been a lot of people not understanding (what we're about)," Tvert said. "The school has an obligation to uphold the law. But it should serve the best interest of the school. This is a demonstration of student opinion that they don't think the penalties (for marijuana use) should be greater than alcohol."
McCracken, who said that oftentimes people have a substance of choice when it comes to alcohol and marijuana, also recognizes the referendum as an expression of student opinion.
"This is something that they have the right and freedom to bring this forward," McCracken said.