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Marijuana on campus: Weeding out bad relations

by The Stylus
Tue, Apr 24th 2018 05:00 pm
Elliott LaPoint/EDITORIAL CARTOONIST
Elliott LaPoint/EDITORIAL CARTOONIST

In the small village of Brockport, Friday, April 20, was possibly the first semi-warm day of the spring season. You might have been able to walk outside without boots, maybe even without a coat, if you caught the sun at the right time. For some college students and residents of this community, Friday was but another day that was the start to their weekend, only slightly more beautiful because of the lovely weather. 

For others, it was a holiday of sorts, one of the best “holidaze” of the year, if you will, that happened to bring us a spring miracle this time around. The only issue is that if you participated in this holiday in Brockport, you were doing so illegally. 

April 20 was barely a week ago, and although that dank herb scent may be slowly dissipating, the conversation of marijuana legalization is still fresh in the air. At this point, 29 states have legalized medical marijuana, and nine states have legalized it recreationally. Recreational marijuana is legal even in Washington, D.C., the capital of this country where the drug is still federally illegal. So yes, all the politicians who continue criminalizing those of us who are just trying to catch a buzz are probably laughing from D.C. as they smoke blunts they rolled from all the confiscated weed.

Let’s face the facts: acceptance of recreational marijuana has been on the rise since society realized weed is not the same old devil’s lettuce we were coerced into believing it is. More and more research is coming out that shows the health benefits of marijuana, and more college students are choosing to smoke weed over drinking alcohol because of the difference in the risk associated with both. 

The worst thing that will happen to you if you “overdose” on marijuana is that you’ll get the spins, throw up and fall asleep. You’re still going to wake up in the morning and you probably won’t feel as sick, as you would if you were hungover. If you so much as even drink a little too much, you’ll end up throwing up all night and have a headache the next day. If you drink enough, you’ll pass out and wake up in a hospital, or worse. 

Now that more than half of the U.S. has legalized marijuana in some aspect, it isn’t surprising that a 2017 Gallup poll shows that 64 percent of Americans support federal legalization. According to Business Insider writer Kevin Loria, there are actually 23 health benefits of marijuana, noting that even the National Institute of Health’s Institute on Drug Abuse has a list of medical uses for marijuana, even though it is not yet FDA-approved because “researchers haven’t conducted enough large-scale clinical trials that show the benefits of the marijuana plant (as opposed to its cannabinoid ingredients) outweigh its risks in patients it’s meant to treat,” according to drugabuse.gov. 

Opponents always say that we don’t know enough about marijuana to make it legal yet, but that hardly makes sense. People having been smoking weed for centuries, okay, they know how it works. It’s safer than cigarettes and alcohol, both of which can kill you, and has a significantly less harmful list of side effects than prescription drugs. It doesn’t make sense that pot can’t get an FDA approval when no one in the history-of-ever has died simply from consuming it, but there are countless commercials for drugs where one of the side effects is liver failure or heart attack or death. 

Loria connects marijuana to the treatment of chronic pain, muscle spasms, Glaucoma and epileptic seizures, reducing anxiety, slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and reducing arthritis discomfort.

Marijuana should be legal for medical purposes, but also because as a nation, we need to end this useless “war on drugs” and mass incarceration. The ACLU reports that white people and black people use marijuana at about the same rate (whites use it more actually), yet blacks are nearly four times more likely than whites to be arrested simply for marijuana possession. 

Before it was legal, blacks in D.C. were eight times more likely than whites to be arrested for possession. The ACLU also reports that more than 50 percent of all drug arrests in 2010 were for marijuana, and 88 percent of the 8.2 million marijuana arrests between 2001 and 2010 were just for possession. 

The College at Brockport released its 2016 Annual Security Report at the end of September. The campus crime statistics are not very descriptive, but based on how often marijuana is mentioned in the campus police blotter and national statistics, it is safe to say that most of the drug law violations arrests, and disciplinary referrals from 2014 to 2016 are in connection to marijuana.

Looking at the college’s data, there has been an increase in drug violations across the board. There were 42 total drug arrests in 2014, but 79 in 2016, while there were 38 total drug referrals in 2014 and 47 in 2016. 

The campus safety report does not include such detailed descriptions like gender or race, but if Brockport is anything like the national statistics (there’s no reason to believe it wouldn’t follow the same pattern), then students of color could be getting referrals or getting arrested at a higher rate than white students. 

We understand that the college is just following the law, but police and the college itself have discretion in the decisions they make, so they can decide whether to go after someone or how harshly they want to punish someone. 

Many cops agree that students shouldn’t get harsh punishments, if any at all. How many times have you or someone you know gotten caught on campus, and the cops either let you go or they took everything you had but didn’t issue you a ticket or anything? Much of it probably has to do with white privilege, but imagine if it was legal and we didn’t have to worry about systemic racism. 

At the same time, students need to make police officers’ lives a little bit easier by not sparking up in the middle of campus. It’s not that hard to be a little discreet. Also, stop smoking in your dorm rooms. It is always obvious when a hall is dank, and you don’t want to be the one who gets all the rooms in your hallway checked by police officers. 

But police officers also need to chill out. They need to stop going out of their way to catch people with marijuana. Let the offending student walk home in shame while they think of what they did wrong instead of giving them a ticket or something else to put on their record. 

Those who oppose it need to recognize that marijuana is likely to be legal very soon, and all the time and money spent on these arrests and referrals right now will be a waste.