Marijuana: University of Maryland Students Vote to Equalize Marijuana, Alcohol Penalties 4/21/06

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The University of Maryland is the latest school to vote to equalize the campus penalties for alcohol and marijuana. Undergraduate students there approved the measure by a margin of 65% to 35% after a campaign led by the campus chapters of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). The campaign, begun last year by Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER) at the University of Colorado and Colorado State University has also seen victories this year at the University of Texas and Florida State University. No campus has voted down a SAFER referendum.

University of Maryland
Colleges and universities across the country typically punish marijuana infractions more severely than alcohol infractions by underage students. Maryland has one of the most severe policies, with pot smokers facing a one-year suspension and being thrown out of university housing. But the SAFER campaign argues that marijuana is safer than alcohol and students should not face more severe penalties for using a substance less likely to harm them or others.

The referenda are only symbolic; they express the will of the student body, but college administrators are not bound to act on them, and so far, none have. Early indications are Maryland will be no different. Vice President for Student Affairs Linda Clement told the Washington Post after the vote she didn't think the school could equalize penalties. "You've got to look at these two issues differently," she said, because marijuana can bring harder drugs, dealers and crime. "Our campus police believe very strongly that drug activity attracts people to the campus who are dangerous."

Those would, one supposes, be different people from the drunken student mobs who regularly riot after significant athletic victories. Last week, those drunk students set fires and shook buses in College Park after the university women's basketball team won the national championship.

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Issue #432 -- 4/21/06

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