Monday, February 13, 2006

Of course marijuana is SAFER than alcohol

So why would marijuana be punished more harshly?

That's the question posed by a student-driven referendum from SAFER-Texas at the University of Texas at Austin asking the university to change its rules to make equivalent the punishments for off-campus consumption of alcohol and marijuana. Reported the Dallas Morning News ("
UT group fights pot penalty," Feb. 13):
UT students became energized about the effort, organizers said, when 18-year-old Phanta "Jack" Phoummarath of Houston died in December of alcohol poisoning after drinking at his fraternity.

"If you look at the rules about how you can be suspended from school, we believe the university is encouraging drinking," said Ann Del Llano, a civil-liberties lawyer working with SAFER Texas. "We see this as a life-or-death matter. If they had brought [Mr. Phoummarath] an infinite amount of marijuana and forced him to consume it, he'd be alive and breathing today."

That's a hard point to argue - between DWI deaths and alcohol poisoning, there's little question that abusing alcohol is a lot more dangerous than abusing marijuana. Campus officials appear somewhat open to the idea, but expressed skepticism that seemed a little silly if the article accurately portrayed their concerns. The Dallas news coverage continued:

UT health officials said that a year or two ago, the dean of students' office offered to stop kicking students out of the dorms if they were caught smoking pot in their rooms.

But campus housing officials balked, saying the smoke bothered nonsmoking students.

Dr. Chuck Roper, head of substance-abuse programs at UT's health services center, said he sees the logic behind the argument that marijuana isn't going to cause deaths like alcohol poisoning does. But organizers appear to be comparing recreational smoking to binge drinking instead of social drinking, he said.

"I'm not sure you're comparing apples to apples at that point," Dr. Roper said. "I understand the logic behind it but ... I don't think you should be encouraging students to break the law and get in trouble. Just like I don't think students should be encouraging students under the age of 21 to be drinking."

Well, I'm not sure Dr. Roper is comparing apples to apples - both marijuana and alcohol can be abused or consumed responsibly. But when alcohol is abused, often people die. The SAFER campaign is based on the successful effort in Denver by the same name, only the non-binding referendum is aimed at university campus rules instead of changing local or state laws. "Similar movements are afoot in Ohio, Maryland, New York and Florida," the News reports..

Sounds like a really good approach to me.


Anonymous said...

Grits, My aunt who is a DNO at one of the biggest jails in Texas and who loves u just like me called to tell me you won some award...Is this true. Are you really just 25? and by the way, I know I shouldn't be asking you this but...r u married? No, I am not stalker just someone who reads this blog everyday and lives near

Writer said...

Why not just smoke OFF campus like the rest of us?

Taylor said...

Shaine, why not send a message that people are tired of the double standards by helping to pass this non binding resolution? Every step helps, and Texas needs marijuana law reform.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@anonymous: Thanks so much! She may be talking about the Koufax award from last year. (Which reminds me, the nominations are up now and I need to post about them - I'm glad you mentioned that!) As for the rest, sorry, but I'm 39 and have been with the same gal for 15+ years. I'm flattered you'd ask, though! :-)

Shaine, I have to agree with Taylor - askng any government institution to rationalize its rules seems worth the time to me. The Dallas News seemed to think it's a pretty big deal, since they put the story on A1. Best,

Anonymous said...

Anyone who does any research into the origin of the drug laws of this country immediately runs into a problem: there's simply no way around the fact the laws were the products of equal parts racism and ignorance.

Given this fact, it becomes especially noteworthy when you look at the racial composition of the prison population in this country, and make the conection between the DrugWar's long-forgotten racist origin and the modern day results of the policy derived from that origin (think Tulia).

Just as with puppy training, forcing Gub'mint types to look back at the origin of the DrugWar, and then have them look forward to today, and ask them to justify the present DrugWar based upon its' odious, bigoted past is about as effective a means I know to rub the prohib noses in their own manure when they are prone to making such verbal messes. Because the apologists for the DrugWar cannot escape the fact that what they support is mired in that same bigotry.

Writer said...

The problem is that no politician wants to go on record as helping "our kids", although most college students are legally adults, have an easier time using drugs. They all try to outdo the last law, rule, or whatever because they are doing something for the public good. Undoing the rules is often seen as making things more dangerous for the public. They all try to outdo each other in protecting us. Showing that backtracking on something is actually safer is the way to go. Good luck to them.