Fishbein: The Other Big Green

by Dan Fishbein | 11/5/15 6:30pm

I commonly see something green other than lone pines here at Dartmouth. Many students here seem to enjoy using marijuana — which is not unusual, given that 36 percent of college students had used marijuana over a 12 month period, according to a 2014 survey from the University of Michigan. At Dartmouth, some students continue to use marijuana even given the draconian laws of New Hampshire, where possession of the drug in any quantity is a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to one year in prison. It is time for New Hampshire to go along with the national trend and reform these laws, and we as college students can help fight to make this happen.

During pre-Orientation, I attended a speech for ’19s about rules on campus and laws in Hanover. In that speech, the head of Safety and Security made the claim that the presence of marijuana inhibits the school’s goals as an educational institution. I could not disagree more. According to researchers at Vanderbilt University, marijuana acts on receptors in the brain in a manner that reduces anxiety and stress. At an Ivy League institution, where students are constantly pushing themselves to take on more challenges in a competitive environment, stress greatly impedes learning.

Furthermore, the College’s dominant social system indirectly promotes drinking and enables situations in which alcohol consumption can easily get out of hand. Alcohol is a very dangerous drug — students are frequently sent to Dick’s House or even Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center when they have consumed too much. Alcohol can also lead to dangerous decisions, and can cause memory blackouts in which individuals become unaware of their actions. For the most part, marijuana does not share these dangerous effects. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, people cannot fatally overdose on marijuana. Unlike alcohol — the most common drug used in sexual assault — marijuana is not frequently used in similar cases. Clearly, then, lawmakers and constituents alike must reconsider the reasons to allow alcohol while banning marijuana.

Although Dartmouth cannot let students engage in illegal activity, students should fight to change New Hampshire’s laws. In a state that prides itself on the motto “Live free or die,” locking people up for using a drug that many scientists believe is less harmful than alcohol is extremely contradictory. From 2001 to 2010, police across the country made more than 8 million marijuana arrests — almost 90 percent of which were only for possession. The American Civil Liberties Union found that enforcing possession laws costs states over $3.6 billion annually. In recent years, police have arrested more Americans per year on marijuana charges than the total number of those arrested for all violent crimes combined.

Though these are national statistics, New Hampshire’s draconian marijuana laws indicate that our state government is similarly misguided. For those of us who believe that the College has a serious problem with sexual assault, it is downright foolish for the town of Hanover to be going after recreational marijuana users instead of those who inflict both physical and emotional pain on survivors. Hanover, and New Hampshire as a whole, must redirect where they spend their police budget and go after violent crimes instead of prosecuting people for making a choice that has little to no negative impact on those around them.

So what can College students do to help New Hampshire take the steps necessary to rethink its incongruous stance on marijuana? In July of this year, a survey conducted by the University of New Hampshire showed that 60 percent of residents supported legalizing marijuana, while 72 percent of residents supported decriminalizing marijuana. It is unjust to have this degree of public support for a policy without any accompanying legislation. This past June, although the state House ruled 297-67 to decriminalize marijuana possession, the state Senate came to no such conclusion, tabling the decriminalization bill. As residents of New Hampshire, we must fight to get the state government’s views in line with those of the people. We must be active in local politics and utilize our voting power to make sure that we really get to live free in the Granite State.