Medical marijuana should be allowed at UMass

It’s medicine

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Collegian File Photo

By Drew Sullivan, Collegian Columnist

In 2012, Massachusetts reached a notable milestone by legalizing medicinal marijuana throughout the state. Just four years later, recreational marijuana was legalized as well. But progress is not always a linear path.

Putting aside the hundreds of thousands of victims of the drug war, many college students are, at the very least, not thriving and possibly suffering due to lack of access to marijuana. Under University of Massachusetts Code of Student Conduct, “the use, possession or cultivation of marijuana for medical and/or recreational purposes is… not allowed on University property.” This language is evidence of reductive federal laws that exist surrounding marijuana.

Denying people their medication is both unethical and counterproductive. Imagine you have a disease or disorder that causes chronic pain. As you walk to class, body aching, you reach in your pocket for an aspirin to take the edge off. As you take the pill and put it into your mouth, a police officer approaches, fines you, and makes you enter a drug treatment program similar to BASICS. One can see how this would not only be considered unethical, but also an egregious overstep. Why are we not applying this to medical marijuana?

Marijuana is known by many to be a “wonder drug” because of its numerous medicinal purposes. Among them include treatment of nausea, glaucoma, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Multiple Sclerosis, nerve pain, Parkinson’s Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. According to Harvard Medical School, marijuana not only provides notable benefits, but it is also a preferable substitute to prescription medication that may cause sedation, weight gain and various other unpleasant side effects.

Over 1,000 students commit suicide every year on college campuses across this country. Equally alarming is the fact that suicide remains the second leading cause of death for these students, only falling behind accidents. High levels of stress combined with untreated or mistreated mental health disorders can create a toxic and potentially fatal mix. Psychotropic medication is often prescribed for a slew of these issues, with marijuana never even entering the conversation.

High levels of stress and anxiety is a common problem faced by many. For this, drugs labeled “benzodiazepines” are usually prescribed. These include Xanax, Valium, Ativan and Klonopin. However, overdoses involving these medications have quadrupled since 2002. Marijuana can do an effective job of treating people of the mental and physical symptoms associated with severe anxiety. Another positive is that marijuana does not carry with it the risk of addiction, overdose or deadly withdrawals. We should be looking to help our fellow college students in need, not fostering a new generation of students addicted to drugs.

Political science major Lindsey Schreiner is the director of membership and advocacy for the Cannabis Reform Coalition and a medical marijuana patient herself. Her work with the CRC also is directly related to reforming medicinal marijuana policies at UMass. This involves a task force brought about in the spring of 2019 to address these issues with the UMass administration. Schreiner has pointed out a double standard between nicotine possession and cannabis possession.

“This policy is discriminatory toward cannabis users because even just having that product on them,” Schreiner says. “Even if… they’re not using it on University property, it’s not allowed.”

Under federal law in 2019, marijuana is still considered a Schedule 1 drug. This means that there are no known medical uses or purposes for it in the eyes of the government. More, the drug is said to represent the greatest addiction potential and risk to society. The recent uptick of states legalizing medicinal marijuana creates a legalistic snafu that not only pits states against an overbearing federal government, but also puts many patients in jeopardy, including at colleges.

Let’s stop denying students something that can be as vital as a painkiller with much less of a risk. Let’s reform outdated federal laws that impose on state and individual rights. Let’s allow medical marijuana at UMass.

Drew Sullivan is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at [email protected]