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Just another day at MU: No high hopes for 4/20

By Reis Thebault
On April 18, 2014

April 20 is weed culture's highest holiday. But on Miami's campus, the day seems to pass just like any other.

"I don't think 4/20 is that big here, at least compared to other places," sophomore and daily marijuana-smoker Nick Johnson* said.

This is peculiar, he said, because of the drug's prevalence in Oxford.

"It's weird because the majority of people I meet all smoke," he said "It's very rare to find a guy that doesn't smoke."

On the other hand, for sophomore Dillon Smith*, also a regular marijuana smoker, it is not just another day.

"4/20 is a day that, regardless of what's going on, parties, school, etcetera, I expect to smoke more than any other day," Smith said.

According to a Miami Student survey, in which 103 students were surveyed, 63 percent indicated they have smoked marijuana at least once.

This statistic surpasses the national average for 18 to 25 year olds. In 2010's National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 18.5 percent admitted to marijuana use.

This difference in percentage could account for Miami's rank of 18th on The Daily Beast's "50 Druggiest College Campuses."

Lt. Ben Spilman of MUPD, however, did not see an overwhelming marijuana culture at Miami in an interview last April.

"I think there is a college-aged culture here, people who try out their freedom in many different ways," Spilman said. " I don't think we have some big marijuana sub-culture going on here that makes us stand apart from other places."

Possession of marijuana is typically a minor misdemeanor, Spilman said, resulting in a maximum fine of $150 and no jail time. It is illegal. However, marijuana's illegality does not make 4/20 a field day for pot-related incidences.

"We don't see any kind of increase in calls," Spilman said.

April 20 is no different than any other day, as far as arrests go.

"We make drug arrests virtually every day of the week," Spilman said. "Our officers make a drug arrest almost any time of the day almost any day of the week."

Visiting assistant professor Christopher Sarver, said he sees things in a similar light as Spilman.

Sarver said he noticed students do not celebrate 4/20 as openly and actively as they do other party holidays-Green Beer day, for example. Also, he said, it is difficult to judge 4/20's affect on class attendance.

"There is a decline in attendance this time of the year anyway, so it's difficult to attribute it specifically to that day," Sarver said.

In fact, 4/20 may be as infamous for greater class attendance as Green Beer Day is for low attendance.

"If 4/20 were on a weekday, yes, I would go to class," Smith said. "Would I go high? Yes. Not necessarily because I want to but because it is 4/20 and you feel obligated to."

Apart from attending class under the influence, both teachers and students acknowledge that profuse smoking does have adverse effects on schoolwork.

"It affects school a little," Johnson said. "There are times when I can choose to either smoke or study and sometimes I choose to smoke."

Sarver agreed that there are consequences.

"It does affect their motivation," Sarver said. "If they're getting high every day and coming to class, I've seen performance drop."

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), "Heavy marijuana users generally report lower life satisfaction, poorer mental and physical health, relationship problems, and less academic and career success compared to their peers who came from similar backgrounds."

Smoke it or not, marijuana is illegal. Sarver pointed out this may be the cause of the campus' subdued celebration of marijuana's biggest holiday.

"It all comes down to what's legal," Sarver said. "[Marijuana] is illegal and it has to be done outside of the public eye."

Evidenced by the high percentages of users and no spike in arrests, this could be precisely what Miami students are doing.

4/20:  A BRIEF HISTORY

Four-twenty is a countercultural holiday that celebrates smoking marijuana. Its roots are often debated. According to the Huffington Post, the "holiday" traces its roots back to 1971 San Rafael, Calif. Five friends who called themselves "The Waldos" heard of an unattended plot of marijuana plants. The friends vowed to meet up after school and sports practice and drive around to hunt for the field. The designated meeting time was 4:20 and, only after smoking, they would begin their hunt. The Waldos never found the infamous free weed but, since their exploits, they have become an integral part of stoner legend.

*Students' names were changed to protect from legal or academic ramifications.

Note: Interviews with Lt. Ben Spilman and Professor Christopher were conducted last April, 2013.


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