In a study conducted by the University of Michigan, 38 percent of college students used marijuana in 2015 — the highest recorded rate since the 1980s. A different report by The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that on an average day, 1.2 million college students between the ages of 18 and 22 consumed alcohol and 703,759 students used marijuana. Yet despite growing rates of usage and its recent legalization in certain states, marijuana use remains an intolerable offense with severe disciplinary consequences on college campuses. In light of the decriminalization of marijuana in New York, NYU should lessen its policies against marijuana use to match those against alcohol use on campus and set an example for other colleges who maintain harsher penalties.
An estimate of 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 22 are found to have died from alcohol-related accidents each year, but colleges still typically maintain more relaxed rules about underage drinking than marijuana use. Columbia University rules that those 21 years and older who wish to drink alcohol may do so responsibly and lawfully with penalties such as rehabilitation, suspension or expulsion as disciplinary actions. In terms of drug use, the university has a no-tolerance policy with disciplinary measures up to and including expulsion and rehabilitation. Despite seemingly similar disciplinary measures, it is clear in the language and wording of the policies that alcohol use is more acceptable than drug use and will be punished less severely.
NYU has a similarly ambiguous policy on alcohol and drug abuse. While it threaten similar disciplinary actions, controlled substance findings are reported on the university crime log, while alcohol is not. In almost every case, the substance is a small amount of marijuana, the crime is reported to Public Safety and the case is referred to the Community Standards office for disciplinary measures. In most cases of alcohol use on university property, the Residential Adviser writes up the incident, and the student is referred to a one-time alcohol education program. This case-by-case procedure facilitates the different approaches in disciplining drug-related offenses.
Colleges across the United States hold similarly intolerant policies against marijuana use as it becomes increasingly popular among students. Despite marijuana’s lower rates of accidents compared to alcohol, students are subjected to punishments as severe as academic probation, loss of financial aid and expulsion for possession and use. Given increasing rates of legalization and research on marijuana’s effects and increased usage, universities should reconsider the severity and ambiguity of its marijuana policies before enacting harsh punishments.
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