Marijuana is a safer alternative to alcohol
Public service announcement: Put down the bottle and pick up the
bong. Well, not really, but there is growing support that the
alternative to unsafe drinking habits is a small, green plant.
might be illegal, and it might be an illicit psychoactive drug, but its
presence may be less harmful to the individuals in a community,
especially college campuses, than alcohol. Although nobody can argue
that widespread drug use is a good thing for any college, it is an
underlying truth that college students love to party, and many will
choose to do so under the influence of some sort consciousness-altering
In honor of the start of Alcohol Awareness Month, students
from over 80 colleges across 34 different states rallied at their
schools for more lenient policies on marijuana last week. Why? Harsher
penalties for weed lead students to drink, and they wanted that to
change. It is the belief of the group Safer Alternative for Enjoyable
Recreation, who coordinated the rallies on Apr. 1, that universities
with harsh penalties for marijuana use are actively causing students to
drink, and potentially over-consume, alcohol.
Despite having a
more permissible legal status than marijuana, consuming alcohol has very
real and very dangerous effects on college campuses. Each
year, an average of 696,000 students are assaulted by another
student who has been drinking, 1,700 students are killed annually in
alcohol related deaths, and 97,000 instances of sexual abuse are
alcohol-related. Additionally, rape is more prevalent
on campuses where binge drinking is common practice, as 72 percent of
rape victims reported being too drunk to give consent or resist.
Obviously, when not consumed in moderation, alcohol can be very
Therefore, in the abstract, it appears that marijuana
is an overall safer drug. There have been no recorded
deaths from cannabis overdose, and the potentially lethal dose of
marijuana is over a thousand times the effective
dose. There is also no link between lung cancer and chronic marijuana
to a study done at UCLA in 2006, yet unhealthy alcohol consumption is
known to have very detrimental effects on the liver.
Let us assume that students will choose to party with a
type of drug and are indifferent to which one. Which one they choose is
dependent on a variety of reasons, but certainly the penalties of
consuming are one of them. Many more schools have stricter punishments
for possessing marijuana, and thus students have this in mind when they
gravitate toward the more available, and potentially more dangerous,
alcohol. Although schools should certainly not encourage the consumption
of drugs, they might consider recognizing that marijuana can be safer
alternative to binge drinking and adjusting their penalties accordingly.
At the very least, school-administered punishments for misuse of
alcohol and possessing marijuana should be equal, allowing students to
make a rational choice.
There are certainly other factors why one
would choose to drink rather than smoke. One might be the fact that weed
is illegal. However, many students might cite this as a deterrent and
still partake in the just-as-illegal act of underage drinking.
Additionally, it is true that weed is not a perfect practical substitute
for drinking, as drinking is a more “party friendly” than marijuana.
Yet another factor might be that the purchase of marijuana could bring
about negative externalities to a community, such as drug dealers,
gangs, and violence.
It seems that at this point in time, no
college or university is ready to embrace weed as an alternative to
drinking, and there are good reasons for this position. And of course,
abstaining from harmful practices such as drinking and smoking is easily
the best choice; however, college students will continue to drink. So,
on a personal level, in the spirit of Alcohol Awareness Month, students
across the nation should reflect on the substances that they put in
their bodies, and contemplate whether or not their current lifestyle is
one that they feel best maximizes their individual well-being.