Education

Are East Coast Colleges Really More Weed-Friendly Than Colorado's?

University of Colorado Boulder isn't the public-consumption mecca it once was, but it still has a national rep.
University of Colorado Boulder isn't the public-consumption mecca it once was, but it still has a national rep. Hunter Stevens
Colorado's status as one of the most cannabis-friendly states in the country is unquestioned, but its universities aren't showing the same love, according to a recent study. In a Princeton Review list of the nation's college campuses that are most accepting of pot, only two Colorado schools cracked the top twenty.

The college admission services company releases yearly rankings on top universities around the country, both overall and for specific categories. After surveying over 135,000 college students nationwide, the Princeton Review ranked the University of Vermont as the school most accepting of cannabis users. The University of Colorado Boulder ranked fourth, while Colorado College ranked nineteenth.

The list, strangely titled "Reefer Madness" – a phrase used for fictitious anti-cannabis propaganda inspired by a 1938 movie of the same name — was based on a study of how widely students felt pot was used at their school. The East Coast dominated the roster, with Connecticut, Maryland, New York and Vermont combining for seven spots. Of the states that have legalized recreational cannabis (Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon, Nevada and Washington), only four had schools on the list.

click to enlarge The CU Boulder campus, shown here in 2011, used to have one of the haziest demonstrations in the country on 4/20. - HUNTER STEVENS
The CU Boulder campus, shown here in 2011, used to have one of the haziest demonstrations in the country on 4/20.
Hunter Stevens
Although Boulder's April 20 pot-smoking demonstrations have died down from years past, thanks to increased police enforcement on campus, CU Boulder and Boulder itself continue to enjoy a national reputation for acceptance of a cannabis-infused lifestyle. The city has issued 23 recreational dispensary licenses, according to the Marijuana Enforcement Division, as well 24 infused-product manufacturing licenses for hash and edibles makers.


Absent from the list was both Northern Colorado University in Greeley and Colorado State University in Fort Collins. CSU was the first major university to penalize cannabis possession on campus the same way it did alcohol possession, but that was back in 2005. Since then, the town of Fort Collins has banned – and then re-allowed – dispensaries within city limits, and CSU announced a class program where students could learn about marijuana addiction treatment.

click to enlarge Activity on 4/20 has died down at CU Boulder thanks to an increased presence by law enforcement. - BRITT CHESTER
Activity on 4/20 has died down at CU Boulder thanks to an increased presence by law enforcement.
Britt Chester
Metropolitan State University of Denver, which shares the Auraria campus with the Community College of Denver and UC Denver in the heart of a city with nearly 175 retail pot shops and many more medical dispensaries, was also left off the list. "It's just not that big of a deal anymore. We do it, the professors do it. It's just not something that needs to be protected," says Malik Tolbert, a 23-year-old senior at Metro State. "Let's see which campuses have more weed bottles in their trash cans. We'd lead that list."

To Tolbert's point, the list's ranking methodology wasn't very expansive. Colorado State University Pueblo was also unrecognized, despite that school's partnership with the Institute of Cannabis Research for community research and an agreement with Pueblo County that allows cannabis tax revenue to fund scholarships for local students.

Colorado also made that Princeton Review's "Don't Inhale" list, which includes the twenty schools that were identified as least friendly to marijuana through the same study: The United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs ranked as the fifth least-friendly university for cannabis consumption. To its credit, the academy was the lowest-ranking military academy on the list, and made news in January when it announced that it no longer had a zero tolerance policy against prior cannabis use for prospective recruits.

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Thomas Mitchell has written about all things cannabis for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate and general news along the way for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman and Fox Sports. He's currently the cannabis editor for westword.com.
Contact: Thomas Mitchell