Medical marijuana has been legalized in twenty-nine states in the U.S. and has been accredited as a safer form of medicine than many pharmaceutical drugs in curing illnesses. With the copious amounts of governmental control that comes through regulation, medicinal marijuana has been used to cure illnesses such as cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, and mental health issues. With the preliminary positive outcomes of what medical marijuana has done in over twenty-nine states, it is our firm belief that PLNU should recognize the validity of medical marijuana, further allowing usage, by prescription, on campus.
To be a medical marijuana user, one must acquire a card that has been issued from a doctor saying marijuana is an appropriate medication to cure his or her illness. Having an official “prescription” from a doctor is radically different than using marijuana as a recreational drug, and should be treated as such. To lump these individuals who are medical users into the “recreational” category is not only a gross exaggeration of their intent, but is also a means to belittle their illness. For people who have a genuine purpose in utilizing this drug, it is appalling to intentionally make them feel discriminated against, and/or judged for their medicinal usage.
Some arguments that may be presented against the usage of medical marijuana, as a legitimate means to cure illness, include the following: the idea of fellow students getting secondhand high from those who are handling the drug, and the potential mishandling of the drug which could lead to recreational uses. Both of these arguments are not only flawed, but are also largely insufficient in their justification to invalidate the usage of this drug. If one is worried about students getting secondhand high, there are many solutions and precautions that can be implemented – some schools and institutions designate un-populated areas and times on campus where students or individuals can go to use this drug. If one is worried about students attempting to use this drug under the pretenses of “medical” use, solutions may include Public Safety having a list and copies of medical cards, as well as monitoring in the usage areas.
Secondly, the argument that “medical” users may mishandle marijuana and start a recreational business is fundamentally defective as there are multiple other drugs on campus used to treat the same types of illnesses as marijuana. These drugs may include Ambien for insomnia, Xanax for anxiety, or Adderall for concentration, all of which have strong pharmaceutical properties that can lead to addiction and/or fatality. If the concern was truly about preventing the spread of drugs for recreational use, in specific regards to marijuana, then PLNU should already exhibit similar concerns regarding other pharmaceutical drugs. To negate the use of medical marijuana under this argument is not to prevent the potential recreational spread, but rather one’s personal opinion hindering another’s person’s medical necessities.
Not only is marijuana proven to lower stress and help anxiety disorders, but studies have shown that it is as safe, if not safer, than its pharmaceutical alternatives. With no possibility of overdosing, marijuana is proven to be less addictive and possess fewer safety concerns than alcohol. Medicinal marijuana use cannot be compared to the dangers associated with alcohol use, as alcohol has been shown to be one of the most dangerous and addictive substances.
When using marijuana to treat mental health issues, it is a far superior health alternative than its pharmaceutical counterparts. With pharmaceutical drugs known to be incredibly addicting, fluctuate hormone levels, as well as made with synthetic artificial drugs, individuals, as well as educational institutions, should not remain in opposition to those seeking medical treatment through marijuana. If this campus validates medical marijuana as a means to solve illnesses, PLNU could be one of the leading innovators in this controversial area, as well as help end the stigma and discrimination against those who need medical assistance.
Validating the usage of this drug does not interfere with the community covenant and solutions to potential dissenting opinions can be easily agreed upon. The school can ask medical users to have their card on file through Public Safety, have designated underpopulated areas at certain times to be usage sites, as well as have users go to therapy to ensure accountability as well as counseling.
PLNU could use this as a campaign to not only fight the stigma against marijuana usage, but also to ensure the appropriate usage of all drugs on campus. A campus that is open about these issues and provides services to combat the mishandling of drugs is a campus that helps its students make lifelong choices to promote a healthier life.
Editor’s Note: While it is not typical for the Opinion Editor to write for their own section, The Point was unable to contact any PLNU student, faculty member or administrative figure willing to write in favor of the school’s current policy.
The personal conduct section of PLNU’s 2017-2018 Student Handbook requires that “students abstain from the use or possession of marijuana and other illegal drugs.” This statement is somewhat outdated given that cannabis was legalized for recreational purposes in California in 2016. Regardless, it is fair for PLNU, a private school, to disallow the use of the substance on campus.
There are many superstitions surrounding cannabis. It is not an addictive substance – the body does not begin to depend on it and/or experience withdrawals following its sudden absence. In this way, Tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive compound found in marijuana, is actually a more subtle chemical than caffeine.
However, its effects are more extreme. THC slows the brain to a crawl, typically giving its user a feeling of euphoria and relaxation. This typically leads to greater introspection and a propensity for abstract and philosophical thinking. All that doesn’t sound so bad.
But the high doesn’t always go so well. According to a study conducted by Harvard Medical School in 2010, between 20 and 30 percent of recreational users experience intense anxiety following its usage, especially if they take a large dosage or do not smoke cannabis regularly.
It’s a genuine hazard, and I’ve personally spoken to multiple people who have experienced such effects. People who are often prescribed medical marijuana, even those with anxiety disorders or post-traumatic stress disorder, have personally attested to me that cannabis was not a reliable countermeasure against their mental condition(s).
While not technically addictive, smoking marijuana can be habit-forming, much the same as eating or playing video games. Anything in excess can be destructive in an individual’s life, a sort of idolatry that keeps humans from attaining their true potential.
Doesn’t a liberal arts university exist to help students in achieving their true potential? It is logical for PLNU to remove any obvious obstructions that could distract its scholars. In signing the joint student/university contract upon admission to PLNU, we are accepting that the campus fosters a safe-haven from many distractions.
This avoidance of distractions is not limited to cannabis, either – the university also disallows premarital sex, tobacco products, and alcohol. The distractions themselves aren’t necessarily “evil,” but the typical age of PLNU students is the most formative time in an individual’s life – if one starts to drink in excess or smoke regularly during their young adult years, chances are it’ll be hard to stop. PLNU’s campus has committed itself to safeguarding its students from making these habit-forming mistakes, and I’d argue that’s fair.
The science regarding marijuana’s long-term health risks has drawn varying conclusions. A study by the British Lung Foundation in 2012 identifies cannabis smoke as a carcinogen akin to tobacco, while prominent neuropsychopharmacologist David Nutt notes that many studies have failed to connect cannabis with lung cancer.
Whatever the truth may be, it’s a well-known fact that inhaling smoke and/or chemicals of any kind puts a significant amount of strain on one’s lungs. Secondhand smoke is a legitimate risk. If marijuana were permitted on PLNU’s campus in any form, roommates would have to actively avoid inhaling the fumes – not only to avoid the smoke, but to evade inadvertently acquiring a “contact high” as well.
Moving forward, it would be reasonable to ask for PLNU to change its policy regarding usage of medical marijuana off-campus. A student who smokes off-campus, even with a medical marijuana card, can potentially be expelled for their behavior. While we’ve all agreed to abide by those terms, that policy seems needless and discriminatory.
Riordan Zentler is a senior majoring in journalism.