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Pot Is A Part Of College Life

Cozmo

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Almost every week of their college lives, Chris and Gabriel have done something illegal.

Chris and Gabriel, along with millions of other college students, smoke marijuana and think nothing is wrong with it.

Almost 35 percent of U.S. college students -- nearly six million -- said they had smoked pot in their lifetime, according to the spring 2006 National College Health Assessment by the American College Health Association.

In fact, one in five students -- more than two million -- said they smoke every month, and in Florida, monthly smokers are 5 percent higher than the national average, according to national surveys and the Core Alcohol and Drug Survey.

''It's gotten higher apparently over the years,'' said Chris Franzetti, assistant director of health promotion at Florida State University's Thagard Student Health Center. ``We don't think we know why, to be honest with you. This whole marijuana issue is something we've just started focusing in on.''

Chris, a B student at FSU, is an articulate, soft-spoken accounting major. Gabriel is a marketing major at Florida International University who also makes Bs.

''It brings people together for sure,'' said Chris, who along with Gabriel spoke on the condition that his last name not be used. ``I wouldn't chill with half the kids I do in Tallahassee if they didn't smoke.''

DOING IT AT HOME

Unlike drinking alcohol, Chris, Gabriel and other students said they rarely smoke at parties. Instead, they do it at home or with a small group of people they trust.

To most students who smoke, marijuana doesn't have the same social significance it did during the 1960s. They say it's just how they relax, relieve stress or socialize with friends.

''Other friends prefer to go out and drink a coffee or juice,'' Gabriel said, ``and I'd rather stay at home and smoke a doobie.''

Franzetti said FSU and other universities throughout the state are working on new ways to deal with students who have problems with marijuana. Drug education isn't sufficient, she said, and there isn't enough money invested in prevention.

For now, the University of Miami focuses on caring for and educating students on the risks of drug use, said Nanette Vega, assistant director of the Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Education and assistant dean of students.

Anyone at UM concerned with someone's drug use can ask for help anonymously through the PIER 21 referral system. Referred students are contacted by the university and asked to meet with Vega, and she determines whether the student needs help, and if so, how much.

''At the end of the day, we want to help the student if there's a substance-abuse problem,'' she said.

RISK OF PENALTIES

Students caught with marijuana at UM can face a loss of housing privileges, a fine of up to $150, probation, suspension or even expulsion. Penalties are similar at other schools, although officials at Florida universities said expulsion is rare for just possessing the drug.

Chris said about a third of his friends who smoke have been caught by police at some point and were typically charged with a misdemeanor and did no jail time. But for Chris and other students, the penalties aren't enough to make them quit.

He has spent about $50 a week on his habit, a total of more than $8,000 since he started in high school.

''You don't hear kids sitting around talking about it,'' Chris said. ``Pretty much everybody does it, but nobody talks about it.''


Newshawk: CoZmO - 420Magazine.com
Source: The Miami Herald (FL)
Author: JOHN W. COX
Contact: jcox@MiamiHerald.com
Copyright: 2007 Miami Herald Media Co.
Website: Pot is a part of student life - 06/04/2007 - MiamiHerald.com
 
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