Pot, grass, weed, reefer … whatever you want to call it, marijuana use has surged since the 1990s and recurring research has found that anywhere between 30 and 35% of college students admit to using marijuana at least annually.
Marijuana has been approved for medical use in several states, but colleges and universities in those states are still banning the drug on campus.
Fifteen states have enacted laws that legalized marijuana for medical use and thirteen others are currently considering proposals to do the same, but colleges and universities say that their campuses will remain drug free for fear of losing federal funding.
Morgan Fox of the Medical Marijuana Policy Project told USA Today that four other states are also looking at marijuana-approval bills, and proposals to tighten or ease laws are pending in at least 10 of the 15 states where medical marijuana is legal.
In 2010 Rutgers University turned down an invitation from Governor Chris Christie to become the only grower of the state’s medical marijuana crop after New Jersey legislature approved a plan to allow patients with certain chronic illnesses to access marijuana. University officials claimed that marijuana’s status as an illegal drug would jeopardize millions of dollars in federal funding to the school, reports the Associated Press.
Medical marijuana is also legal in Arizona. In fact, an institution named Cannabis College is offering a variety of classes related to the topic and the “campus” is currently serving as a prototype for a future medical marijuana dispensary. Even so, Arizona’s state university system says that federal law trumps state law and its colleges will remain drug-free zones. Students and staff at Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona must abide by the “no pot” rules or the school will risk losing federal aid and grants, reports Fox News Phoenix.
Some pot activists see legalizing medical marijuana as part of a larger strategy to decriminalize the drug, explains USA Today. “Highlighting marijuana as some kind of medicine has sent a terrible message to young people," says Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Alcohol remains the favored substance of abuse on college campuses, but the non-profit group Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER) is urging colleges and universities to stop encouraging college students to drink responsibly and start encouraging them to party responsibly instead, since many college students do choose pot over liquor.
SAFER’s website quotes statistics from a Newsweek article that points out alcohol use by college students contributes to approximately 1,700 student deaths each year, including a number of overdose deaths. Zero deaths are attributed to marijuana use each year, and there has never been a marijuana overdose death in history.
A 2005 study found that the percentage of college students who admitted to smoking marijuana heavily—at least 20 days during the previous month—more than doubled from 1.9% in 1993 to 4% in 2005, according to a 2007 USA Today article.
The Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse and Violence Prevention reports that the Harvard School of Public Health conducted three surveys between 1993 and 1999 to examine the drug and alcohol use of 44,265 college students across the United States.
The Harvard study found that that 91% of college students who use marijuana also participate in other high-risk activities like heavy drinking or cigarette smoking. College students who smoke pot typically spend more time at parties and socializing with friends and less time studying. The surveys also found that many pot smoking college students perceive religion and community service as unimportant.
Students at large schools, commuter schools and co-ed schools were more likely to use marijuana while students from historically black colleges and colleges in small or rural towns were less likely to use the drug. Pot use was also associated with poorer academic performance—college students that used marijuana were less likely to study for two or more hours a day and were more likely to have a grade point average of B or less when compared to those who did not use the drug.
Presently, medical marijuana is legal in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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