For indefatigable marijuana booster Mason Tvert, founder of the advocacy organization Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER), April 1 is a very big day. Rallies are scheduled to take place at more than eighty colleges and universities across the country (see the complete list below) arguing that students who use marijuana are far safer than those who opt for alcohol.
Meanwhile, at 1 p.m. today, Tvert will join a group at the Auraria campus targeting Stephen Jordan, president of Metropolitan State College. Jordan is a supporter of the Amethyst Initiative, which argues that lowering the legal drinking age to eighteen would help reduce the culture of binge drinking on campuses.
"We feel that if he's comfortable opening up the discussion about lowering the drinking age, there's no logical reason why he shouldn't have a discussion about using marijuana more freely," Tvert says.
How did Tvert choose today for pro-marijuana demonstrations?
"April is National Alcohol Awareness month," he says. "Obviously, April 1 is the first day of that month, but it's also April Fool's Day -- and the message a lot of students will be sending is that this is not a joke.
"We're talking about allowing college students to use marijuana as a safer recreational alternative to alcohol. Now, some might scoff at that idea. But this is an issue that involves student safety. It's literally a matter of life and death in some cases. The fact is, for college students and everyone else, for that matter, using marijuana is safer than using alcohol."
SAFER's college initiatives have grown like a certain weed in a few short years.
"We started in 2005 simply trying to organize students at CU and CSU," he notes. "Then, in 2007, we coordinated a day of action that involved just over fifty campuses -- a lot fewer than are participating this year. And we've passed student referendum measures at more than a dozen college campuses nationwide. CU-Boulder and CSU were the first two, and since then, we've added the University of Maryland, Florida State University, the University of Texas at Austin, Ohio State, Purdue. The referendum has passed at five of the fifteen larges colleges in the nation."
Tvert believe these measures aren't just popular; they're good policy. In his words, "Who knows better how to reduce student drinking? Gray-haired administrators or college students, who know that when they go out, students using marijuana are far safer than students using alcohol."
At the Auraria news conference today, Tvert will be "highlighting the current state of campus policies and laws, which steer students away from marijuana and toward drinking" -- with Jordan as the focal point.
In response to the Amethyst Initiative, Tvert created the Emerald Initiative, which calls for signatories to support constructive debate about the relative safety of marijuana use versus alcohol consumption. Then, he sent copies to Jordan's office, and Jordan personally, along with a letter explaining the concept. But, he says, "they ultimately responded that they weren't interested in endorsing it."
To Tvert, this stand is inexplicable, particularly in light of Jordan's Amethyst advocacy.
"This isn't an endorsement of marijuana," he stresses. "It's an endorsement of having an open and dispassionate debate about whether this could be a solution to alcohol-related problems on campuses."
Hence, today's festivities will include a trip to Jordan's office, at which Tvert and his supporters will hand-deliver the initiative, as well as a copy of the book Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?, written by -- you guessed it -- Tvert. While they, he adds, "we'll try to find out why these college administrators will do everything from encouraging students to drink responsibly to lowering the drinking age, but they won't even stop to consider providing college students with a safer recreational alternative that would likely reduce drinking even more."
Page down to see details about the Auraria event, a list of participating college and the text of the Emerald Initiative.
College Students Nationwide Say "Stop Driving Us to Drink" and Allow Marijuana as a Safer Alternative to Alcohol
Students at 80+ colleges and universities in 34 states -- including 9 in Colorado -- to take action on THURSDAY, April 1st
On the first day of National Alcohol Awareness Month -- April Fool's Day -- students argue that campus safety is no joke; urge universities to reduce penalties for marijuana use
DENVER -- On Thursday, April 1, students at more than 80 colleges and universities across the country -- including nine in Colorado -- will hold rallies on their campuses to urge their universities to stop driving them to drink and allow them to use marijuana as a safer recreational alternative. See below for a list of participating colleges and universities.
April 1st marks the first day of National Alcohol Awareness Month -- as well as April Fool's Day -- and students will be out on their campuses distributing information about the relative harms of alcohol and marijuana, as well as holding signs and banners that read: "This is NOT a joke... Let us make the SAFER choice!" The students argue that laws and policies on and around most college campuses punish students more harshly for marijuana use than for alcohol use, steering them toward drinking and away from using marijuana -- a far less harmful substance -- instead.
WHAT: Nationwide Day of Action calling on universities to stop driving students to drink allow them to use marijuana as a safer alternative to alcohol
WHEN: Thursday, April 1, 1 p.m.
WHERE: Main Square outside the Plaza Building on the Auraria Campus (Call 720-255-4340 if further directions are necessary)
WHO: SAFER Executive Director Mason Tvert Metro State College of Denver students University of Colorado-Denver students
Community College of Denver students Art Institute of Colorado students
NOTE: Students will also be taking action on the campuses of the University of Colorado-Boulder, University of Denver, University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, Fort Lewis College, Front Range Community College
The "SAFER Campuses Nationwide Day of Action" is being coordinated by Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER) -- a national non-profit organization working to educate the public about the relative safety of marijuana compared to alcohol -- in conjunction with Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) and campus chapters of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). SAFER launched the SAFER Campuses Initiative in 2005, in response to student alcohol overdose deaths on the two largest college campuses in Colorado. Since then, SAFER has helped students coordinate campus referenda campaigns at more than a dozen colleges and universities, including at least five of the 15 largest schools in the nation. SAFER referenda express the student bodies' opinions that school penalties for marijuana use should be no greater than those for alcohol use, that way students are no longer steered toward using the more harmful substance. See http://www.SAFERcampuses.org for more information and news stories on the SAFER Campuses Initiative.
"Every objective study on marijuana has concluded that it's far safer than alcohol for the user and for society," said Sarah Groton, a student coordinator at the University of Denver. "Yet laws and campus policies punish students more harshly for marijuana, sending the dangerous message that alcohol is more acceptable despite the fact that it contributes to all sorts of serious problems that are not associated with marijuana use."
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism's Task Force on College Drinking, each year the use of alcohol by college students contributes to approximately 1,700 student deaths (including several fatal overdoses); 600,000 unintentional student injuries; 695,000 assaults involving students; and 97,000 sexual assaults and date rapes involving students. The use of marijuana itself has not been found to contribute to any deaths, and there has never been a single fatal marijuana overdose in history. All objective research on marijuana has also concluded that it does not contribute to injuries, assaults, sexual abuse, or violent or aggressive behavior.
"It might be April Fool's Day, but this is not a joke," Groton said. "It's time we stop driving students to drink and let them make the rational, safer choice to use marijuana when they party."
Following the students' news conferences, they will visit the office of the university president to deliver a copy of the book, Marijuana Is Safer: So why are we driving people to drink?, along with copies of the "Emerald Initiative," which they will urge their respective presidents to endorse.
The Emerald Initiative is SAFER's response to the Amethyst Initiative -- a statement endorsed by more than 130 college presidents and chancellors, calling for "informed and dispassionate public debate" on whether lowering the legal drinking age to 18 would reduce levels of student drinking and incidences of the serious problems associated with it. The "Emerald Initiative" calls on these same presidents and chancellors -- as well as others -- to support "informed and dispassionate public debate" on whether allowing students to use marijuana more freely could reduce dangerous drinking on and around college campuses. The Emerald Initiative statement was mailed to every signatory of the Amethyst Initiative, but none were willing to endorse it. * See below for Emerald Initiative Statement.
"Universities nationwide are trying everything from encouraging students to drink responsibly, promoting 'social norms drinking,' and even, in some cases, proposing a lowering of the drinking age in order to curb dangerous student alcohol use," said SAFER Executive Director Mason Tvert. "Some may scoff at the Emerald Initiative, but its no less viable a plan and this is literally a matter of life and death.
"It's time our colleges and universities stop teaching students to 'drink responsibly,' and start teaching them to 'party responsibly," Tvert said.
Participating Colleges and Universities
Alabama University of Alabama University of Montevallo Arkansas University of Arkansas Arizona Arizona State University Northern Arizona University Estrella Mountain Community College California University of California at Berkeley University of California at Los Angeles University of California at Merced San Diego State University (Action on April 8) San Jose State University San Francisco State University California State University at Monterey Bay California State University at San Marcos Chico State University University of Redlands Pasadena City College Fullerton College (Action on April 8) Mills College Colorado University of Colorado at Boulder University of Colorado at Colorado Springs University of Colorado at Denver Metropolitan State College of Denver University of Denver Fort Lewis College Front Range Community College Community College of Denver Art Institute of Colorado Connecticut University of Connecticuit Central Connecticuit State University Quinnipiac University District of Columbia Georgetown University Florida Florida State University (Action on March 31) University of Central Florida Georgia University of Georgia Georgia State University University of West Georgia Georgia College and State University Georgia Perimeter College Windward Community College Iowa Iowa State University Illinois Northwestern University Northern Illinois University Indiana Purdue University Kansas Kansas University Kentucky University of Kentucky Massachusetts Boston University Suffolk University Maryland University of Maryland University of Baltimore Michigan Michigan State University Kalamazoo College Mott Community College Minnesota University of Minnesota at Twin Cities Missouri University of Missouri at Columbia (Action on April 8) Missouri Southern State University North Carolina University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill New Hampshire University of New Hampshire New Jersey Rutgers University William Paterson University New York Syracuse University Ithaca University State University of New York at Oneonta Eerie Community College Ohio Ohio State University Kent State University (Action on April 8) Oregon University of Oregon Pennsylvania Lafayette College Kutztown University Rhode Island Brown University (Action on April 8) South Dakota South Dakota State University Utah University of Utah Virginia University of Virginia Virginia Commonwealth University Old Dominion University Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Vermont University of Vermont Marlboro College Washington Washington State University Wisconsin University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee West Virginia West Virginia University
Emerald Initiative Statement
It's time to address the culture of alcohol on campus
Student alcohol use at our nation's colleges and universities has reached epidemic levels.
The consensus among researchers, educators and policymakers is that a "culture of alcohol" on and around college campuses is largely responsible for the popularity, frequency, and degree of student drinking.
Yet efforts to change this "culture of alcohol" -- which rely heavily on encouraging students to "drink responsibly" -- have largely failed to address it and in some cases continue to fuel it.
College students are being driven to drink
It is time to explore the benefits of encouraging students to "party responsibly" rather than "drink responsibly."
Alcohol and marijuana are by far the two most popular recreational substances available to college students.
Every objective study on marijuana has concluded that it is far less harmful than alcohol both to the user and to society yet students face more severe legal and university penalties for marijuana use than they do for alcohol use.
Such laws and policies are driving students to drink instead of making the rational, safer choice to use marijuana. In doing so, they are fueling the dangerous "culture of alcohol" on our nation's college and university campuses.
How many more alcohol-related incidents must occur before we consider a new approach? We call upon our elected officials and fellow university leaders:
To support an informed and dispassionate public debate on whether it would be more effective to provide students with an alternative to alcohol instead of simply encouraging them to use less when they drink.
To consider whether current laws and university policies, which punish individuals more for using marijuana than for using alcohol, steer students toward drinking and away from using a less harmful substance instead.
To invite new ideas about the best ways to prepare young adults to make responsible decisions about alcohol and marijuana.
We pledge ourselves and our institutions to playing a vigorous, constructive role as these critical discussions unfold.
Print Name: _________________________________________
College or University Name:___________________________________________________________
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.