Illustration courtesy of Gabbie Evans
MADELEINE LUCCHETTI | OPINION COLUMNIST | firstname.lastname@example.org
Due to the nature of the topic, the students who provided comments requested to remain anonymous.
The collegiate age demographic makes up a hefty ‘nugget’ of those in favor of legalizing marijuana. This year, New Frontier Data’s Cannabis Consumer Survey found that young adults ages 18 to 35 were 9 percent more likely to support this legal push than adults older than 35. Both state and federal governments have grappled with weed’s legality for decades. Some haven’t come to a conclusive stance, and some have puff, puff, passed laws in its favor.
Butler University holds a staunch “zero-tolerance” policy in regard to students possessing or using illegal substances on campus. Partaking in illicit drug usage carries an enormous calculated risk, one that some students are willing to take.
I interviewed several Butler students, and included some special guests, who offer their definitive, blunt positions on this controversial issue. Without delving into large-scale technical statistics or national studies, I was able to collect varying opinions from anonymous peers of differing age and habit.
How do you believe Butler students handle a zero-tolerance policy, specifically when it comes to weed?
Female senior, Jordan College of the Arts, occasional user: “I don’t personally feel that students handle the zero-tolerance policy very well at all. As I’m sitting here, I just saw a kid light a blunt in broad daylight on the knoll.”
Male junior, habitual user: “With cannabis, it’s a transition period — where it’s becoming legal, and it just happens that Indy is not one of [the areas where it’s legal]. Butler tries to make cannabis sound horrifying and as dangerous as ‘hard’ drugs.”
Female sophomore, education major, non-user: “I believe students on Butler’s campus who choose to ignore the zero-tolerance policy aren’t hurting anyone except themselves. Butler, just as any school, is a place designed to educate young adults and have less control over the personal decisions students make during their free time. Nonetheless, those caught should understand the position Butler is in, and should face repercussions head-on.”
Male first year, business major, occasional user: “I believe Butler students will disregard the policy if they have the urge to smoke marijuana.”
Bill Clinton, former President, non-user: “I tried marijuana once. I did not inhale.”
My own thoughts certainly align with bits of each answer above. Never have I witnessed a cautious smoker deliberate the intricacies of the Butler Handbook before lighting a joint. If kids want to smoke, they’ll do it in Ross, in Holcomb Gardens, in a crowded Knoll house, wherever. The same applies for dealers who sell on campus.
Why do students deserve to be punished/not punished if they’ve been caught?
Female senior, occasional user: “I think students should only be punished for smoking weed if it is endangering someone else’s life, [like] driving while high. But if you are smoking in your own home with your friends, you shouldn’t be punished.”
Male junior, habitual user: “The only reason people are being punished is because it’s illegal in the state. I guess another reason would be because they’re smoking in a campus building, such as a dorm or apartment. But if you are in your own house, what’s the problem?”
Female sophomore, non-user: “Students should be punished if they’re breaking the law and get caught. Period. When it comes to smoking weed, I don’t see how someone could get a free pass unless they’re smoking it for medical reasons.”
Male first year, occasional user: “They deserve to be punished because there is a lesson to be learned. Maybe, after punishment, they’ll reconsider continuing to smoke.”
Bob Marley, Jamaican public figure, habitual user: “I think people need to be educated to the fact that marijuana is not a drug. Marijuana is an herb and a flower. God put it here.”
It’s laughable to claim innocence in this situation. Picture it: “But officer, I didn’t know!” Every step of the road here, from acquisition to the knock of law enforcement upon your door should ring a bell that what you’re doing is not supposed to be happening in the state of Indiana.
Do your personal beliefs lead you to think that underage alcohol usage or illegal marijuana is more dangerous?
Female senior, occasional user: “I think both have their own dangers. Underage alcohol can be abused with people who don’t know their limits or tolerance and can lead to extreme sickness, or, in some cases, death. Illegal marijuana can be dangerous because you may not know where your dealer is getting the weed from. But generally, I think that underage alcohol usage is more dangerous because in most cases, smoking cannot kill you.”
Male junior, habitual user: “Have you ever heard of a weed overdose? How often do you hear of an alcohol overdose? But it depends on the person. I had some friends who became typical stoners. So, I would have to say that alcohol is worse for your body, but cannabis could change your personality and that can be dangerous on its own.”
Female sophomore, non-user: “Both alcohol and marijuana can affect individuals in more ways than one. Everyone should be free to make their own decisions and shouldn’t feel pressured to take part in either of these activities. While I may or may not choose to take part in these activities is my decision and my decision only, as it is for the person next to me.
Male first year, occasional user: “Alcohol usage is much more dangerous. You cannot overdose on marijuana, but you can consume enough alcohol to the point where it can become very deadly.”
I was especially struck by the second response. Alcohol’s effects are most often short-term, unless the abuse is so extreme that it leads to alcoholism or poisoning. Creating a consistent habit of using marijuana, as seen in countless cases in college careers, affects certain personalities with a vengeance.
Butler is a community of passionately verbal students who now find themselves on the edge of a relevant issue. Hearing polarizing opinions is inevitable, which is why discerning values and beliefs on the personal level is important. Still, college students are expected to conduct themselves like adults, and our actions are thusly reflective.
In the midst of this debate’s haze, something is for certain: no matter the circumstance, the diverse community of Butler has the initiative and drive to have its voice heard.