Popularity of marijuana increases

by Sabrina Peric | 5/23/01 5:00am

Though "Animal House" may have established Dartmouth as the college of drunken debauchery and alcohol-related incidents, it is marijuana usage which appears to be becoming more and more popular on this campus.

Though studies on marijuana usage are hard to come by, most of the students who talked to The Dartmouth said that they have noticed a sizeable increase in the presence of marijuana on campus.

"When I was a freshman, all we ever did was drink. Nobody even brought up smoking pot. But now, I feel like everyone's doing it," one senior.

A recent survey conducted by Dartmouth Health Services found that almost 36 percent of Dartmouth students claim to have smoked marijuana during the past year, a figure slightly higher than the national average for college students.

"There is a lot more pot than I first realized," one student admitted. "It is all over and incredibly easy to get."

Many of the students that the Dartmouth spoke to said that the easiest way of getting pot is knowing people who smoke it.

"I smoke up here, but only when friends invite me to smoke with them. I've never bought my own and I wouldn't even know how to go about doing it," another student explained.

Many agreed there are very specific places and parties on campus a student could go to get drugs, but they would not comment further.

"I probably only smoke up two or three times a term. I think that there are certain scenes where you know people always smoke up," the student explained, "and I guess if I was really into it, I would know who to 'befriend' and where to go."

Most student users at Dartmouth say the pot smoking on campus is low. But as one marijuana smoker said, "Lots of people who you would never expect are doing it."

" I think of dope as being more of an 'artsy' drug," another student said, "it is more prevalent in the alternative culture here [at the College] than at other places. Some people choose to drink, others to smoke."

"[Pot] is definitely not as mainstream here as alcohol. There are certain circles that use it," a student explained, "but it is more behind-the-scenes, as opposed to more 'open drugs' like alcohol and smoking cigarettes."

In general, the students that The Dartmouth spoke to did not think of marijuana as a problem and tended to equate it with alcohol or smoking.

"I don't think the drug scene is a big problem here, most people that do any drugs are basically like me," a student commented, "I mean, for most people drugs aren't going to interfere with social relations or schoolwork."

According to one junior who smokes marijuana, many of the drugs used on campus come from the University of Vermont in Burlington, which is about a two-hour drive from campus. The junior also said that other students also bring marijuana from Maine and New York City, among other places.

According to the Addiction Science Research and Education Center at the University of Texas, the most deaths due to overdose come from using cocaine, heroin and ecstasy. Overdoses with marijuana and LSD are the most rare, unless mixed with other drugs.

There is relatively little research on marijuana, compared to the amount on cocaine, alcohol and other drugs. Marijuana is difficult to study, for several reasons. Marijuana joints on the street cannot easily be duplicated in the laboratory, since the content of the active ingredient (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, THC) varies greatly in street products. Animals cannot easily be exposed to the smoke, and the native form of THC is not water soluble, therefore, it is difficult to administer the compound to animals.

Many Dartmouth students found nothing wrong with smoking marijuana on either an infrequent or regular basis.

"I don't think the campus does anything to combat [marijuana usage], but I think that's a good thing because it's not hurting anybody," a junior said.

Three-quarters of the students The Dartmouth spoke to believed that alcohol was much more dangerous in a social setting than weed.

"I have seen many many more people do horrid things and get really f*cked up when they are drinking," a sophomore said. "People get violent and scary. I've never seen that happen to anyone who was smoking."

In a study last year, the Addiction Science Research and Education Center at the University of Texas concluded that marijuana is less toxic to the body than alcohol and that alcohol is the most highly addictive drug in the present-day.

Marijuana has no federally-approved therapeutic use. The active ingredient, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, is approved in tablet form (dronabinol or Marinol) for the treatment of nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy, and for the treatment of wasting syndrome in AIDS.

Some people, however, think marijuana is more effective in joint form than in tablet form, which has never been proven scientifically.

In 1996, four Dartmouth students were arrested by the Hanover police in relation to drug possession charges.

Peter Navarro '98, David Puritz '96, Joshua Winterhalt '97 and Paul Manger '97 were arrested for possession of marijuana which was recovered from their rooms in Bones Gate during a search following a fire drill during Winter Carnival weekend.

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