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April 2006
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Students vote to reduce penalties for pot

Reported at the Washington Post
The University of Maryland becomes the fifth school to pass a student referendum that says marijuana violations should be treated no more harshly than alcohol violations. This is part of the Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER) movement. The idea is that for most students, both alcohol and marijuana are illegal, yet marijuana violations often end up with suspensions or being kicked out of housing, while alcohol violations do not. Their view is that alcohol is actually more dangerous than marijuana, so marijuana should not result in higher penalties. This is not about changing the law, but rather school policy, and such referendum is non-binding (no school has yet changed their policy). The U-MD referendum passed with roughly 2/3 voting in favor.
The administration reaction?

The university’s vice president for student affairs said the administration takes any strong message from student elections very seriously. But she doesn’t think the school will be able to treat drug and alcohol violations the same way.
“You’ve got to look at these two issues differently,” Linda Clement 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.”
The vote comes just as the school, which has enjoyed a growing national reputation for its academics in recent years, also is fighting off the bad publicity that postgame student riots have brought. Last week, drunken students celebrated the women’s basketball national championship win by setting fires and shaking buses in College Park.

Who are the dangerous ones again?
Stupid reaction award goes to:

Gwendolyn Dungy, executive director of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, laughed when she heard about the vote. She doesn’t know of any college in the country that treats drug and alcohol violations the same — mostly because of the law, she said, because, unlike smoking marijuana, drinking is legal after 21.

Um, yes, but we’re talking about the policy for those who are under 21, when both are illegal, and both have university policy penalties separate from criminal sanctions. It’s nice to know that Gwendolyn can laugh about students getting suspended or being denied housing for harming nobody.

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