Daily Pennsylvanian (UPenn): Is marijuana healthier than alcohol?
Written by Kathy Wang
Thursday, 16 April 2009
New initiative proposes lessening consequences for users of the drug
A recent proposal is weighing the value of pot in more than just grams.
new proposal called the Emerald Initiative calls on college and
university presidents to consider reducing penalties for marijuana use
as a way to lower alcohol abuse.
Drafted by the nonprofit Safer
Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation, the proposal claims that
marijuana is less harmful than alcohol to users and to society and
advocates that colleges punish for marijuana use no more than for
"I am generally supportive of encouraging
deliberation on topics but probably wouldn't sign something unless it
directly relates to Penn's missions," said Penn President Amy Gutmann,
who added she had seen too little of the issue to take a definitive
The proposal is a response to last summer's Amethyst
Initiative, which encourages debate on lowering the legal drinking age
to 18 and has been signed by presidents of 135 colleges and
universities to date. Gutmann chose not to sign that proposal, though
she agreed the age should be lowered.
"The government and
universities clearly acknowledge that alcohol is a problem on campuses,
but all their policies to prevent it - 'Drink Responsibly' campaigns,
for example - just promote the notion that students should be
drinking," said SAFER executive director Mason Tvert.
Emerald Initiative was sent last week to presidents who signed the
Amethyst Initiative, as well as to schools that have passed SAFER
"Given the controversial nature of marijuana and,
especially, the health/mental health impact of marijuana use on the
developing brain, I think that any dialogue would need to include a
comprehensive look at the impact of marijuana on college students'
overall health," Julie Lyzinski, director of Penn's Office of Alcohol
and Other Drug Program Initiatives, wrote in an e-mail.
course, there are negative effects to marijuana, just as there are to
overeating or talking on your cell phone, but does that mean we need to
criminalize it?" Tvert asked.
The initiative cites alcohol's
potentially lethal nature and tendency to cause violent behavior,
neither of which have been linked to marijuana use.
But at Penn,
"students who report using marijuana are also our highest-risk alcohol
and 'other' drug users," Lyzinski said. "Legalizing marijuana will not
necessarily result in lowering alcohol abuse."
both underage drinking and marijuana use violations of its alcohol and
drug policies and of the law, according to Lyzinski.
argues that the government has prohibited marijuana for "entirely
arbitrary reasons," citing political and ideological motives.
those who dismiss substance use altogether in favor of "natural highs,"
Tvert added that the proposal recognizes abstinence is not an
alternative to alcohol for students seeking intoxication.
time we stop trying to get college students to drink responsibly and
start encouraging them to party responsibly," Tvert said.