Letter to the Editor: Northwestern should re-examine cannabis policies on Ski Trip

Daniel Hurwitz

If you haven’t heard yet, cannabis is legal by Colorado state law and has been since the end of 2012. Since then, state officials, activists and private entrepreneurs have been busy creating a regulatory framework to ensure a safe and secure marketplace for users and distributors.

While the sample size is still far too small to make a fair conclusion, recent articles suggest that rates of cannabis consumption have largely remained unchanged. The data suggests the drug’s legalization has created a substitution effect with alcohol, encouraging drinkers to switch to a measurably safer intoxicant.

Unfortunately, Northwestern’s administration seems to be ignoring these developments.

A recent article in The Daily highlights NU’s policy, which continues to prohibit legal cannabis use by students while attending NU Ski Trip. “Despite the drug’s legality in Colorado, NU’s drug policies ‘are enforced no matter where students are,’” said Tara Sullivan, director of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution. ‘We expect that if (students) are on a school-sponsored trip, that they are not participating in drug use.'”

Let us first state that the phrase “drug use” is used incorrectly here. Nicotine is a drug. Alcohol is a drug. NU does not condemn drug use, it condemns illegal drug use. The only difference between cannabis and the licit drugs listed above is their perceived harms. However, it has been proven that cannabis is a safer drug than alcohol. A recent Lancet study found alcohol and tobacco to cause more harm than cannabis, both to oneself and to others.

Drug use is a reality on our campus, and it will be a reality on Ski Trip. So why does NU insist on discouraging the safer choice? By ignoring Colorado state laws, NU is implicitly giving its stamp of approval to students who want to drink, whether that is the intention or not. This is not an issue about drugs, it is an issue about safety. We need to demand better, more sensible policies from our University that promote the safety of its students as an unequivocal priority.

A major reason for the University’s unwillingness to change these policies is the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act of 1989, which states that “no institution of higher education shall be eligible to receive funds … under any Federal program … unless the institution … has adopted and has implemented a program to prevent the use of illicit drugs and the abuse of alcohol by students.” However, any belief that more lenient drug policies will lead to a loss of federal funding is simply unfounded. No college or university has ever lost federal funding due to a violation of the DFSCA, so long as they continue to provide prevention programs to reduce the use and sale of cannabis. Over 100 medical amnesty acts have been put in place in colleges and universities around the country, including here at NU, providing protection to minors in the case of an alcohol-related overdose, especially to those who call for help. These same goals centered around student health need to drive our cannabis policy. Universities can no longer hide behind the DFSCA to avoid reforming drug policy.

Let us make one thing abundantly clear: We do not support increased drug use. Any drug has inherent dangers, and the best way to reduce the associated harms is to remain abstinent. Despite this, it has been proven that traditional abstinence-only education does not work. We have learned this lesson with sex education, and now our health center gives out free condoms. Does this promote unhealthy sexual behavior?

Hence our concern about Sullivan’s statements. This assumption that students “are not participating in drug use” fails to spark an open and honest conversation about the realities of drug use. It is more of the same statements educators have been making for years, turning their backs on the reality of drug use in schools and assuming that if they do not allow it, it won’t happen.

This is not the solution.

The best method for combatting drug use is through open, honest discussion about the realities and the relative harms of various drugs. Not only does this increase the likelihood of safer use, it has even been shown to decrease use in general. And yet, NU remains firm in its stance. Why?

This is not an issue about the morality of drug use. This is an issue of student safety. Whether NU likes it or not, cannabis is legal by Colorado state law. Allowing students who are over the age of 21 to use it according to the laws of the state could not only save students from school sanctions, it could save a life. As students, it is important to stand up and hold the administration accountable for policies that harm the health and safety of our peers. We are stakeholders in this University, and our voices deserve to be heard. For this reason, ASG has already passed a resolution calling for the University to rethink its policies regarding legal cannabis use on Ski Trip.

These policies affect all of us. Encourage open and honest discussion and education about the real effects of these drugs, and please encourage our University to do the same.


Daniel Hurwitz

Co-President, Students for Sensible Drug Policy

Rex Tai

Co-President, SSDP

Noah Star

Associated Student Government Speaker of the Senate

Erendira Vazquez-Parrales

VP Membership, SSDP

Scott Metzger

VP Membership, SSDP

Caroline Naughton

VP Event Planning, SSDP

Katie Way

VP Public Relations, SSDP

Sofia Lopez Franco

VP Public Relations, SSDP

Braden Couch


Isabel Schwartz


Arielle Gordon


Anna DiStefano


Negatwa Tewodros


Sam Cohen


Chad Carter


Sofía Rivera Sojo


Clark Ingemar Skillman


Zachary Lochmueller


Maalik Konop DeFreitas


Sophie Weber


Cassandra Forte


Frank Ungerer


Serene Darwish

ASG Vice President of Student Activities

Matthew Clarkston

ASG Senate Off-Campus Caucus Whip

Ronak Patel

ASG Off-Campus Senator

John Saylor

ASG Off-Campus Senator

Jake Rothstein

ASG Residential Senator

Daniel Mayor

ASG Student Groups Senator

Parag Dharmavarapu

President, South Asian Student Alliance

Meg McPherson

Member, Happiness Club

Aeryn Smith

Kiran Kaur

Taejin Thomas

Joey Lautrup

Anisa Mian

Alistair Murray