Seven deadly sins: The student stoner dilemma

The university's hypocritical stance against marijuana can prevent even the best of students from getting an education.

By Bebe Maddux

Published November 11, 1998 1:42PM (EST)

There is a poster in my college stating that 71 percent of students don't
binge drink. There are black and white pictures of five students underneath
this statistic who are smiling and have balloons coming out of their heads
that say, "I don't binge drink!" Underneath these photos somebody scrawled in
a black permanent marker, "But 100 percent smoke pot!"

I laughed the first time I saw the altered poster in the ladies bathroom
and thought what a true statement that was. I have smoked marijuana more
times than I can count and most of my friends over the years have smoked it.

I've found it to be a fairly harmless drug with fewer side effects than alcohol, and less addictive for me. I have known some people who got so
wrapped up in the drug culture that marijuana did lead to harder drugs. They
had wasted lives spent in basements watching bad Japanese movies and smoking whatever weed they could lay their hands on.

Those pot addicts were the exception to the rule, however, and I have never worried if a pot smoker moved into the apartment underneath me or if the guy across the street is dealing it to his friends. But the financial
office at your local university does.

When I receive my financial aid each year I sign a document that says I
agree with their drug policies and I am informed that if I am convicted of a
drug offense I may lose my right to any future funding.
The actual law is that if you are convicted of a misdemeanor or felony drug
charge and the judge specifies in the sentencing that you are on a "drug hold,"
you are ineligible for financial aid for the rest of your life. The
restriction against financial aid does not apply to other felonies or
misdemeanors. In other words, serial killers and child molesters, once released from prison, can rake in all the Pell Grants and Stafford Loans they can get their hands on, but a convicted marijuana user can never have access to a federally funded education.

President Clinton has admitted to trying to inhale pot; and Al Gore has
admitted to smoking it several times while in college. Many people in this
country have experimented with this fairly harmless and sometimes medicinal
drug despite the fact that some states have mandatory prison terms for
marijuana use.

The enforcement of United States drug laws is filling up the prisons and
making felons of nonviolent offenders. Since the 1970s, when lawmakers
declared the war on drugs, the population in prisons has risen five-fold and the
United States has the largest amount of adults incarcerated in the industrialized world
except for Russia, which is undergoing political and economic turmoil. But according to a recent study by the same federal government that is making these laws, rehabilitation is more effective in treating drug offenders than prison.

How many of us had our first joint around the age of 18? If I would've
been caught that first time in the mall parking lot with my best friend, I
never would've gone to college. I can't say what I would be doing if I
couldn't receive any grants or loans from the government to continue my

I have a friend named John who got busted for having a bowl in his car
with some residue of pot inside the bowl. He didn't receive any jail time; he
just got a $600 fine. He was lucky that he didn't get the "drug hold" but he never did go back to finish his degree. The fine set him back quite a bit financially and he had to work full time at his waiter job so he could pay his rent.

The college can admit on a poster that 29 percent of all students have a drinking problem and the campus community realizes that all those people need
is some counseling. No one would ever suggest or seriously believe that
making alcohol illegal and putting binge drinkers in jail would ever solve the
problem of alcoholism.

I don't really laugh when I see those posters in the ladies room
anymore. I just wait for the poster that says, "90 percent of all college
students do not get stoned every day!" And I can have my black and white photo
with the balloon coming out of my head declaring with obvious pride on my
face, "I don't get stoned every day!" Until then I will just keep my dirty
little secret out of the court system and hope that the financial aid office never finds out.

Bebe Maddux

Bebe Maddux is a senior at Virginia Commonwealth University majoring in English.

MORE FROM Bebe Maddux

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Academia Books College