The Safer Alternatives for Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER) bandwagon is rolling right along. The Colorado-based group won campus victories last year at the University of Colorado and Colorado State University with resolutions urging the schools to adopt equal penalties for alcohol and marijuana violations before winning an upset victory in Denver, where residents voted to legalize marijuana possession. Now, the campaign, which explicitly contrasts the harms of alcohol and marijuana, has won two more campus victories, at Florida State University late last month and at the University of Texas at Austin this week.
In Tallahassee, students were asked: "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?" More than 60% voted yes.
"We hope the Florida State University administrators will head the advice of the student body," said Alexander "Chek" Ewscychik, outreach director for FSU NORML and the coordinator of the SAFER campaign on the FSU campus. "There is simply no logical reason to impose disproportionate sanctions upon students for making the rational -- and safer -- choice to use marijuana instead of alcohol. The university is under no obligation to punish students for marijuana possession," Ewscychik continued. "If state and local authorities want to continue the irrational marijuana prohibition game, that is their business. But the university should no longer play a role in a myth-based system that is driving students, as well as adults, to drink."
In Austin, where students were asked a similar question, the referendum passed with 64.4% of the vote. While the resolutions are not binding on university administrators, they provide a clear indication of the state of student sentiment on the issue and provide powerful ammunition with which to seek changes in college disciplinary codes that punish marijuana violations more severely than alcohol violations despite clear evidence that alcohol use is linked to everything from overdose deaths to domestic violence to sexual assaults, while marijuana is not.
"This victory demonstrates that students clearly recognize the truth: Alcohol is simply more harmful -- both to the user and to society -- than marijuana," said Judie Niskala, UT Campus Coordinator for SAFER Texas. "Not surprisingly, given this truth, they agree it does not make sense to punish an individual more harshly for using the less harmful substance. This is a perfect opportunity to find out if the new student representative on the Board of Regents is going to represent the will of the students or not," Niskala pointedly added. "The university should have one clear priority: the safety of the students. Because marijuana is less harmful than alcohol, this safety issue should be the university's primary concern. It is time for the University to change its policies so that it no longer encourages students to choose alcohol over marijuana."
Now, to make administrators listen.