Student leaders of a campaign designed to educate the public about the relative harms of marijuana and alcohol today are cheering the fact that a solid majority of students on the Florida State University (FSU) campus have expressed support for the reduction of university-imposed penalties for marijuana use and possession.
Sixty percent of students voting in yesterday?s election said ?Yes? to the following question:
?Should the university-imposed penalties for the use and possession of marijuana be no more punitive than the penalties currently imposed by the university for the use and possession of alcohol on campus??
The FSU campaign ? coordinated by FSU chapters of NORML and Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) ? is part of a national public education effort initiated by a group called Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER). SAFER was originally launched in January 2005 on the campuses of the University of Colorado – Boulder and Colorado State University. Just four months earlier, two students ? Colorado State University sophomore Samantha Spady and University of Colorado freshman Lynn Bailey ? had died on these campuses from alcohol poisoning. SAFER argued that students should not be punished more harshly for using marijuana ? a drug that has never caused an overdose death ? than for using a more dangerous drug, alcohol.
Following successful referenda campaigns on the CU and CSU campuses, SAFER coordinated a successful initiative campaign in Denver, making the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana legal under city ordinances. The organization has now launched a statewide initiative in Colorado that would make a similar change to state laws.
In addition to FSU, SAFER is also working with students at the University of Texas at Austin, the Ohio State University, and the University of Maryland. Students at UT Austin will vote on a referendum similar to the FSU ballot question next week (February 28 and March 1).
Drinking by college students, ages 18 to 24, contributes to an estimated 1,400 student deaths, 500,000 injuries and 70,000 cases of sexual assaults or date rapes each year, according to a 2002 study commissioned by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Task Force on College Drinking.
Despite the objective fact that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol ? both with respect to the harm to the user and the harm to the campus environment ? students across the country are treated more harshly for the use of marijuana. The most obvious example is the fact that students twenty-one years of age and older can drink until they vomit without having a university sanction imposed upon them. Yet if a twenty-one year-old student is cited for marijuana possession by local authorities, university discipline is a near certainly.
?We are thrilled to see students around the country embracing the SAFER campaign and using it to raise awareness on their campuses,? said Steve Fox, executive director of SAFER. ?Adults, whether they are students or non-students, should not be punished for choosing to use marijuana over the more harmful substance, alcohol.?
?Our nation?s leaders have been playing a game for nearly 70 years,? Fox continued. ?They have demonized marijuana and marijuana users, pushing people toward alcohol instead. Students and voters are finally standing up and saying, ?The game is over.??
Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER) is a Colorado-based non-profit organization whose mission is to educate the public about the harmful consequences associated with alcohol, as compared to the safer?yet illegal?substance: marijuana.
For more information about SAFER, visit: www.SaferChoice.org