Perhaps it is because we are students in Colorado, where marijuana is legalized, or perhaps not. Either way, it is among common perception from students at DU, and I believe among students in general across college campuses nationwide, that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol. Because of this misconceptions, students continue to make poor decisions and require education about safe marijuana use.
From talking to other students in my hall and around campus, it seems as if the common perceptions as to why marijuana is safer exist because it is natural, you can’t overdose from it and it is not addictive. Students also may not be aware that there are different strains and potency levels. With alcohol it is oftentimes easier to gauge how much you are ingesting by taste. With marijuana, especially in the form of edibles, it can be more difficult to truly know how much you are ingesting. Because of these misconceptions, many students also seem to believe that they are capable of driving while high, while they may not even think of driving while intoxicated.
On campus, it is difficult to determine whether marijuana is more of a visible problem than alcohol.
Marie Spence, a Resident Assistant in Johnson-McFarlane, explained, “There’s a lot of both. From my perspective as an RA, it seems that marijuana may be more obvious because it is easier to identify because the smell is so strong, but that does not mean there is necessarily more of one or the other.”
So, is marijuana actually causing considerable harm on campus? Of course, it depends on who you ask, but the greater problem is not whether or not it is more or less dangerous than alcohol but whenever students simply do not know as well as they should, generally, the possible dangers of marijuana.
I have found that there is much more education about alcohol use than marijuana. This is likely because marijuana is legal in so few states nationwide, so alcohol is seen as a more common danger to students if used hazardously. All incoming freshmen at DU are required to complete “AlcoholEdu for College,” described by their website as, “an interactive online program designed to reduce the negative consequences of alcohol amongst students.” However, we are not required to take a similar class regarding marijuana use. There is a substantial amount of marijuana use on campus. This absolutely has to do with the fact that marijuana is legal in Colorado, making marijuana more easily attainable.
Substance use will never be completely eradicated from college campuses, and thus it is crucial to educate students how to use safely, as has been happening with alcohol. However, because marijuana is legal in Colorado, DU must add education about marijuana use as a requirement, as is already in place for alcohol, to correct the misconceptions and increase safe marijuana use.