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By Rachel Carasso
Arizona Daily Wildcat
February 17, 1998

Marijuana support, use growing among college students

A national survey conducted last year found that the largest number of college freshmen since the 1960s favor marijuana legalization.

Support for the idea has more than doubled among college freshmen since 1989, according to a National Institute on Drug Abuse survey. In 1997, 35.2 percent of the nation's college freshmen wanted to legalize the drug, compared with 16.7 percent in 1989.

"I think the reason that marijuana is more widely used and accepted now is because even people outside the college community are sending the message that it's OK," said Deirdre O'Leary, UA French and Italian studies freshman.

Steven Dnistrian, senior vice president of Partnership for a Drug-Free America, said the media and television are to blame for marijuana's growing appeal.

"Musicians started singing its praises openly, and then sit-coms treated smoking in a funny way," he told The Associated Press last week. "And when the media started up with stories about how the drug war was lost, our message was lost."

Not every student is using marijuana or approves of its use, said Stephanie Ives, a health promotions educator with University of Arizona's Campus Health Center.

"I talk to students all the time about issues concerning marijuana and just as many are against its legalization as are for it," she said.

The UA conducts a survey each spring called the Core Institute Drug and Alcohol survey. Campus Health is in the process of conducting this semester's survey.

Colleges nationwide use the Core Institute's survey to gather statistics at their schools. The institute originates at Southern Illinois University.

The Core Institute tabulates results from each school and sends them back with national statistics. The survey asks students questions concerning alcohol and drug behaviors.

According to the Core survey, alcohol use has decreased and marijuana use has increased at the UA since 1992.

According to spring 1997 survey results, 34 percent of UA students used marijuana last year. Nineteen percent of UA students used it within a month of taking the survey.

Ives said it is important to notice that the majority of students have not used marijuana within a year of taking the survey, although usage has increased overall.

The Core survey does not ask about lifetime drug use.

Campus Health uses the survey's information for its Counseling and Psychological Services department. Ives said Campus Health becomes involved when marijuana begins to affect students' academics, athletics and jobs.

"A lot of times, it is the friends that people have that lead them to marijuana," Ives said.

"I think marijuana use is a big problem at the UA," said Santino Colisimo, a business sophomore. "People think pot is OK. It is like a silent drug."

Other said they think using marijuana in college is a rite of passage.

"People come to college and are away from their parents," said Danny Clifford, a communications freshman. "Most of them just try it - the problem is only if they become consistent users."

"A lot of my friends have quit," said Gabe Hyams, a physiology senior. "They are graduating and moving on to bigger and better things. It was just a college thing."

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