For indefatigable marijuana booster Mason Tvert, founder of the
advocacy organization Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER),
April 1 is a very big day. Rallies are scheduled to take place at more
than eighty colleges and universities across the country (see the
complete list below) arguing that students who use marijuana are far
safer than those who opt for alcohol.
Meanwhile, at 1 p.m. today, Tvert will join a group at the Auraria
campus targeting Stephen Jordan, president of Metropolitan State
College. Jordan is a supporter of the Amethyst Initiative, which argues that lowering the legal drinking age to eighteen would help reduce the culture of binge drinking on campuses.
"We feel that if he's comfortable opening up the discussion about
lowering the drinking age, there's no logical reason why he shouldn't
have a discussion about using marijuana more freely," Tvert says.
How did Tvert choose today for pro-marijuana demonstrations?
"April is National Alcohol Awareness month," he says. "Obviously,
April 1 is the first day of that month, but it's also April Fool's Day
-- and the message a lot of students will be sending is that this is
not a joke.
"We're talking about allowing college students to use marijuana as a
safer recreational alternative to alcohol. Now, some might scoff at
that idea. But this is an issue that involves student safety. It's
literally a matter of life and death in some cases. The fact is, for
college students and everyone else, for that matter, using marijuana is
safer than using alcohol."
SAFER's college initiatives have grown like a certain weed in a few short years.
"We started in 2005 simply trying to organize students at CU and
CSU," he notes. "Then, in 2007, we coordinated a day of action that
involved just over fifty campuses -- a lot fewer than are participating
this year. And we've passed student referendum measures at more than a
dozen college campuses nationwide. CU-Boulder and CSU were the first
two, and since then, we've added the University of Maryland, Florida
State University, the University of Texas at Austin, Ohio State,
Purdue. The referendum has passed at five of the fifteen larges
colleges in the nation."
Tvert believe these measures aren't just popular; they're good
policy. In his words, "Who knows better how to reduce student drinking?
Gray-haired administrators or college students, who know that when they
go out, students using marijuana are far safer than students using
At the Auraria news conference today, Tvert will be "highlighting
the current state of campus policies and laws, which steer students
away from marijuana and toward drinking" -- with Jordan as the focal
In response to the Amethyst Initiative, Tvert created the Emerald
Initiative, which calls for signatories to support constructive debate
about the relative safety of marijuana use versus alcohol consumption.
Then, he sent copies to Jordan's office, and Jordan personally, along
with a letter explaining the concept. But, he says, "they ultimately
responded that they weren't interested in endorsing it."
To Tvert, this stand is inexplicable, particularly in light of Jordan's Amethyst advocacy.
"This isn't an endorsement of marijuana," he stresses. "It's an
endorsement of having an open and dispassionate debate about whether
this could be a solution to alcohol-related problems on campuses."
Hence, today's festivities will include a trip to Jordan's office,
at which Tvert and his supporters will hand-deliver the initiative, as
well as a copy of the book Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?,
written by -- you guessed it -- Tvert. While they, he adds, "we'll try
to find out why these college administrators will do everything from
encouraging students to drink responsibly to lowering the drinking age,
but they won't even stop to consider providing college students with a
safer recreational alternative that would likely reduce drinking even
Page down to see details about the Auraria event, a list of participating college and the text of the Emerald Initiative.
On the first day of National Alcohol Awareness Month --
April Fool's Day -- students argue that campus safety is no joke; urge
universities to reduce penalties for marijuana use
DENVER -- On Thursday, April 1, students at more than 80 colleges
and universities across the country -- including nine in Colorado --
will hold rallies on their campuses to urge their universities to stop
driving them to drink and allow them to use marijuana as a safer
recreational alternative. See below for a list of participating
colleges and universities.
April 1st marks the first day of National Alcohol Awareness Month --
as well as April Fool's Day -- and students will be out on their
campuses distributing information about the relative harms of alcohol
and marijuana, as well as holding signs and banners that read: "This is
NOT a joke... Let us make the SAFER choice!" The students argue that
laws and policies on and around most college campuses punish students
more harshly for marijuana use than for alcohol use, steering them
toward drinking and away from using marijuana -- a far less harmful
substance -- instead.
WHAT: Nationwide Day of Action calling on
universities to stop driving students to drink allow them to use
marijuana as a safer alternative to alcohol
WHEN: Thursday, April 1, 1 p.m.
WHERE: Main Square outside the Plaza Building on the Auraria Campus (Call 720-255-4340 if further directions are necessary)
WHO: SAFER Executive Director Mason Tvert
Metro State College of Denver students
University of Colorado-Denver students
Community College of Denver students
Art Institute of Colorado students
NOTE: Students will also be taking action on the campuses of the
University of Colorado-Boulder, University of Denver, University of
Colorado-Colorado Springs, Fort Lewis College, Front Range Community
The "SAFER Campuses Nationwide Day of Action" is being coordinated
by Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER) -- a national
non-profit organization working to educate the public about the
relative safety of marijuana compared to alcohol -- in conjunction with
Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) and campus chapters of the
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). SAFER
launched the SAFER Campuses Initiative in 2005, in response to student
alcohol overdose deaths on the two largest college campuses in
Colorado. Since then, SAFER has helped students coordinate campus
referenda campaigns at more than a dozen colleges and universities,
including at least five of the 15 largest schools in the nation. SAFER
referenda express the student bodies' opinions that school penalties
for marijuana use should be no greater than those for alcohol use, that
way students are no longer steered toward using the more harmful
substance. See http://www.SAFERcampuses.org for more information and news stories on the SAFER Campuses Initiative.
"Every objective study on marijuana has concluded that it's far
safer than alcohol for the user and for society," said Sarah Groton, a
student coordinator at the University of Denver. "Yet laws and campus
policies punish students more harshly for marijuana, sending the
dangerous message that alcohol is more acceptable despite the fact that
it contributes to all sorts of serious problems that are not associated
with marijuana use."
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and
Alcoholism's Task Force on College Drinking, each year the use of
alcohol by college students contributes to approximately 1,700 student
deaths (including several fatal overdoses); 600,000 unintentional
student injuries; 695,000 assaults involving students; and 97,000
sexual assaults and date rapes involving students. The use of marijuana
itself has not been found to contribute to any deaths, and there has
never been a single fatal marijuana overdose in history. All objective
research on marijuana has also concluded that it does not contribute to
injuries, assaults, sexual abuse, or violent or aggressive behavior.
"It might be April Fool's Day, but this is not a joke," Groton said.
"It's time we stop driving students to drink and let them make the
rational, safer choice to use marijuana when they party."
Following the students' news conferences, they will visit the office
of the university president to deliver a copy of the book, Marijuana Is
Safer: So why are we driving people to drink?, along with copies of the
"Emerald Initiative," which they will urge their respective presidents
The Emerald Initiative is SAFER's response to the Amethyst
Initiative -- a statement endorsed by more than 130 college presidents
and chancellors, calling for "informed and dispassionate public debate"
on whether lowering the legal drinking age to 18 would reduce levels of
student drinking and incidences of the serious problems associated with
it. The "Emerald Initiative" calls on these same presidents and
chancellors -- as well as others -- to support "informed and
dispassionate public debate" on whether allowing students to use
marijuana more freely could reduce dangerous drinking on and around
college campuses. The Emerald Initiative statement was mailed to every
signatory of the Amethyst Initiative, but none were willing to endorse
it. * See below for Emerald Initiative Statement.
"Universities nationwide are trying everything from encouraging
students to drink responsibly, promoting 'social norms drinking,' and
even, in some cases, proposing a lowering of the drinking age in order
to curb dangerous student alcohol use," said SAFER Executive Director
Mason Tvert. "Some may scoff at the Emerald Initiative, but its no less
viable a plan and this is literally a matter of life and death.
"It's time our colleges and universities stop teaching students to
'drink responsibly,' and start teaching them to 'party responsibly,"
Participating Colleges and Universities
University of Alabama
University of Montevallo
University of Arkansas
Arizona State University
Northern Arizona University
Estrella Mountain Community College
University of California at Berkeley
University of California at Los Angeles
University of California at Merced
San Diego State University (Action on April 8)
San Jose State University
San Francisco State University
California State University at Monterey Bay
California State University at San Marcos
Chico State University
University of Redlands
Pasadena City College
Fullerton College (Action on April 8)
University of Colorado at Boulder
University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
University of Colorado at Denver
Metropolitan State College of Denver
University of Denver
Fort Lewis College
Front Range Community College
Community College of Denver
Art Institute of Colorado
University of Connecticuit
Central Connecticuit State University
District of Columbia
Florida State University (Action on March 31)
University of Central Florida
University of Georgia
Georgia State University
University of West Georgia
Georgia College and State University
Georgia Perimeter College
Windward Community College
Iowa State University
Northern Illinois University
University of Kentucky
University of Maryland
University of Baltimore
Michigan State University
Mott Community College
University of Minnesota at Twin Cities
University of Missouri at Columbia (Action on April 8)
Missouri Southern State University
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
University of New Hampshire
William Paterson University
State University of New York at Oneonta
Eerie Community College
Ohio State University
Kent State University (Action on April 8)
University of Oregon
Brown University (Action on April 8)
South Dakota State University
University of Utah
University of Virginia
Virginia Commonwealth University
Old Dominion University
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
University of Vermont
Washington State University
University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee
West Virginia University
Emerald Initiative Statement
It's time to address the culture of alcohol on campus
Student alcohol use at our nation's colleges and universities has reached epidemic levels.
The consensus among researchers, educators and policymakers is that a
"culture of alcohol" on and around college campuses is largely
responsible for the popularity, frequency, and degree of student
Yet efforts to change this "culture of alcohol" -- which rely heavily
on encouraging students to "drink responsibly" -- have largely failed
to address it and in some cases continue to fuel it.
College students are being driven to drink
It is time to explore the benefits of encouraging students to "party responsibly" rather than "drink responsibly."
Alcohol and marijuana are by far the two most popular recreational substances available to college students.
Every objective study on marijuana has concluded that it is far less
harmful than alcohol both to the user and to society yet students face
more severe legal and university penalties for marijuana use than they
do for alcohol use.
Such laws and policies are driving students to drink instead of
making the rational, safer choice to use marijuana. In doing so, they
are fueling the dangerous "culture of alcohol" on our nation's college
and university campuses.
How many more alcohol-related incidents must occur before we consider a new approach?
We call upon our elected officials and fellow university leaders:
To support an informed and dispassionate public debate on whether it
would be more effective to provide students with an alternative to
alcohol instead of simply encouraging them to use less when they drink.
To consider whether current laws and university policies, which punish
individuals more for using marijuana than for using alcohol, steer
students toward drinking and away from using a less harmful substance
To invite new ideas about the best ways to prepare young adults to make responsible decisions about alcohol and marijuana.
We pledge ourselves and our institutions to playing a vigorous, constructive role as these critical discussions unfold.
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College or University Name:___________________________________________________________