Apr 052009
Authors: Mason Tvert

April is National Alcohol Awareness Month and is a perfect time for CSU to stop teaching students to “drink responsibly.”

You heard me right — I said CSU should stop encouraging students to drink responsibly. Instead, they should start encouraging them to “party responsibly,” even if that means using marijuana instead./

After all, there is no logical reason why CSU or any other university should prefer its students use a potentially lethal drug that contributes to unintentional injuries and violent behavior instead of one that has never killed a person in history and is not associated with such problems.

As you are likely aware — or will surely be made aware of this “Awareness Month” — alcohol use by college students has reached what many experts consider epidemic levels./It is more widespread, more frequent and being done to a greater degree than at any point in history.

Last year it contributed to about 1,700 student deaths, 600,000 student injuries,/695,000 assaults involving students and/97,000 sexual assaults and/date rapes involving students.

In fact, studies have found that alcohol is involved in more than 90 percent of student assaults and three out of every four incidents of sexual abuse.

The use of marijuana, on the other hand, has never been found to contribute to violent crimes, aggressive behavior or serious injuries.

Moreover, there has never been a marijuana overdose death in history, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported zero deaths attributable to marijuana use last year (and the year before, and the year before, etc.).

Suffice it to say, the most severe consequences associated with pot are the penalties for using it, including criminal charges, fines, loss of student financial aid and suspension or expulsion from school.

Although there is a consensus among policymakers that a “culture of alcohol” on campus is to blame, virtually all of them maintain laws and campus policies that fuel that culture by steering people toward drinking with harsher punishments for marijuana.

Students are taught at a young age to believe marijuana is always bad and alcohol is not always bad and, in many cases, is acceptable.

Then they go off to college where, as 18-year-olds, they are informed that college drinking is normal (and to be done responsibly), but they will be punished more severely for using marijuana than for drinking underage.

And of course, they are bombarded with beer signs that feature their college logo and sold shot glasses featuring the mascot (in the same store on campus where they must buy their textbooks).

The overall effect of all of this is a student population that believes it is far more acceptable to drink than it is to make the rational choice to use a far less harmful substance instead.

Nevertheless, most students recognize that marijuana is safer, and many are starting to speak out against such intellectually dishonest laws and policies.

At several major universities around the nation — including CSU, CU-Boulder and at least six of the 15 largest schools in the nation — students have voted overwhelmingly in favor of “SAFER Campus Referendums,” calling for university penalties for marijuana that are no greater than those for alcohol.

Of course many policymakers and administrators (including those at CSU) have thumbed their noses at the students, but this is a movement that is quickly picking up steam and will only continue to grow and raise debate about the efficacy of “alcohol-only” laws and campus policies.

Although some may scoff at this idea that allowing students to use marijuana could solve the college-drinking debacle, this is literally a matter of life and death. Our political and university leaders must get their heads out of the sand and take this issue seriously.

It’s time to stop telling students they should “drink responsibly” and start allowing them to “party responsibly.”/

Mason Tvert is executive director of Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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