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Marijuana considered as ‘socially accepted’ as alcohol, but can still pose risks

Bob Marley did it. So did Michael Phelps. Even President Barack Obama admitted to having inhaled the stuff, admitting quite frankly that “that was the point,” as MSNBC reported in November 2007.

So what exactly is all the fuss about pot?

Over the years America’s extended prohibition on marijuana has repeatedly failed to curb people’s love of weed, especially on college campuses where illegality has become an unavoidable yet trifling irritation.

In fact, using marijuana has become an American tradition second only to that of drinking alcohol. According to a study conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University in 2005, 33.3 percent of college students reported using marijuana during the previous year.

Though marijuana has often been given a bad reputation with claims that it is dangerous and a gateway drug to other, more addictive and dangerous, substances, college students continue to smoke weed as a way to relax the mind and body. Some even view it as a safer alternative to the legal intoxicant alcohol.

“Alcohol makes you more uninhibited whereas weed just makes you feel lazy and tired,” said Alexa Ferra, a sophomore majoring in public relations. “With alcohol, there’s more of a chance that you do something crazy.”

But for others, marijuana poses a threat to the health and safety of college students, who are susceptible to peer pressure and abusive patterns of drug use.

According to Howard A. Liddle, a professor of psychology and director of the University of Miami’s Center for Treatment Research on Adolescent Drug Abuse, marijuana can be just as dangerous as other drugs because it has become so socially acceptable, a comparison he makes to alcohol and binge drinking.

“Many researchers believe that changes [in the brain]place a person at greater risk of becoming addicted to other drugs such as heroin or cocaine,” Liddle said. “We ought to be much more worried about drugs such as marijuana, a drug that many parents of today’s teens tried or used.”

Some argue that the nature of alcohol and its effects on the body make it a more dangerous form of social recreation than passing a joint.

Despite the physiological concerns, some still feel it should be an individual’s right to choose what they put in their bodies.

“I think marijuana should be legalized,” said Luis Reyes, a sophomore at Florida International University. “The government might not do it because its part of the culture to keep it illegal, but a lack of appropriate information for people has led them to exaggerate the dangers of it.”

But while Bob Marley believed that “herb is the healing of a nation,” sophomore Zach Parnas said that college students should remember self-awareness.

“The way you conduct yourself is important,” Parnas said. “It’s not really about responsibility or even about how your actions may be impacting others, but how you’re impacting yourself.”

Marijuana Myths According to the Drug Policy Alliance Network

Myth: Marijuana can cause permanent mental illness

Myth: Marijuana is more potent today than it was in the past.

Myth: Marijuana offenses are not severely punished.

Myth: Marijuana is more damaging to lungs than tobacco.

Top 5 Myths According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy

Myth No. 1: Marijuana is harmless.

Myth No. 2: Marijuana is not addictive.

Myth No. 3: Marijuana is not as harmful to your health as tobacco.

Myth No. 4: Marijuana makes you mellow.

Myth No. 5: Marijuana is used to treat cancer and other diseases.

March 29, 2009

Reporters

Jessica Macias

Contributing News Writer


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