Alcohol more dangerous than marijuana
Published: Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, September 29, 2010 07:09
Last week, Tufts was ranked as the most dangerous college campus in the United States by The Daily Beast, an opinionated news website. Although it is obvious that the Chinatown location of the Boston campus was the overwhelming reason for the high ranking, I still believe we are far from perfect here on the Hill.
As most upperclassmen realize, quite a few Tufts students do not know how to drink alcohol responsibly and sometimes are taken to the hospital as a result. The reckless drinking culture here is so prevalent that even University President Lawrence Bacow admitted in a June article to the Boston Globe that binge drinking "is not a problem that anyone is going to solve. It's a condition that needs to be managed."
Living in South Hall last year, it was not an uncommon sight to see Tufts Emergency Medical Services and officers of the Tufts University Police Department (TUPD) outside the side entrance, assisting an incoherent student after a drunken weekend night. Despite never having witnessed any serious crimes on campus, it is obvious to me that alcohol plays a major role in the large number of rapes, aggravated assaults and unintentional injuries happening every school year.
With this in mind, I had an experience two weekends ago that had me thinking about the problems regarding drugs and alcohol at Tufts. A TUPD officer on Saturday night appeared at the door of my Wren Hall single, asking if I had any marijuana in my room and claiming he smelled it throughout the suite. Being surprised and somewhat intimidated, I simply responded no and decided to shut the door. The officer continued to ask my friends in the common room the same thing, and when they also responded no, he hinted at doing a search of the entire suite. Hearing this, I was intrigued by what his motives were and walked out into the common room. By then, one of the students had handed over an eighth of an ounce of pot.
The account of the incident that TUPD gave to the Daily for its police briefs was a misrepresentation of what actually happened, as the brief said a Wren resident handed over a small amount of marijuana once the officer arrived at his room. To my knowledge, nobody was smoking, and the person caught with the Class D substance was in the common room at the time and also lives downhill. In my opinion, the officer acted as if he had definitive probable cause to search our suite because he smelled the aroma of the cannabis, and an intimidated student took the fall. The herb handed over to the police officer was contained in an airtight bottle inside the student's bag, so whatever the officer was sensing with his olfactory organs, it seems likely to me that it was not what he confiscated.
After the officer left, we reflected about the potential crimes that had been prevented as a result of an eighth of an ounce of marijuana being confiscated. Then we realized that there were none.
Our logic was based on the fact that the worst-case scenario resulting from a student smoking an inordinate amount of Cannabis sativa on a weekend night is the possibility of ordering an excessive amount of Pizza Days or Helen's Roast Beef. On the other hand, the worst-case scenario after imbibing too much alcohol is death or waking up at Lawrence Memorial Hospital with no shoes, phone or memory of what happened.
Possessing alcohol underage in Massachusetts can get you arrested and, depending on the situation, a court date. Across the nation, campuses are dealing with the serious safety risks associated with the college binge-drinking culture. In two arbitrary years, I will be able to legally buy booze and drink until my heart is content. On the other hand, because I am over 18, here in Massachusetts I may have to pay a $100 fine for possessing an ounce or less of marijuana.
Though I believe that decriminalization is better than outright illegalization, it seems counterintuitive to fine for small possession while simultaneously classifying cultivation and distribution as criminal offenses, because the only way to possess the plant is to acquire it from a dealer or grower. If anything, the decriminalization of pot in Massachusetts attracts more citizens to buy it because of the lack of serious punishment, leading to the underground exchange of more untaxed black market dollars.
In less than six weeks, California will vote on Proposition 19, the passage of which would legalize marijuana for persons over 21 and tax its production, distribution and sale. I encourage all Californian students to submit an absentee ballot by Oct. 26 and support the effort to bring the Golden State's most valuable cash crop into the free market while simultaneously dealing a major blow to the powerful Mexican drug cartels.
But California is definitely not alone in regard to the reformation of marijuana laws. A week and a half ago, what is purported to be the second-largest annual cannabis legalization rally in the country took place on Boston Common. It was the 21st annual Boston Freedom Rally, also known as Hempfest.
Still, one doesn't need to ride the Red Line down to Park Street to observe the prevalence of marijuana in our society. Every year, marijuana smokers at Tufts come out of the woodwork and congregate on the library roof on April 20 to enjoy a communal smoke session. It is by far the largest act of civil disobedience the Tufts student body participates in annually and indeed by students at many other universities around the world. So my question is, if there are so many students who use marijuana here, then where are the statistics for the safety issues caused by the drug use on campus?
According to CollegeDrinkingPrevention.gov, 1,825 college students are killed because of unintentional alcohol-related injuries every year. Another shocking statistic is that every year 696,000 college students are assaulted by students who have been drinking. There are zero documented cases of someone dying solely from the use of marijuana. Go ahead, Google it.