Reefer nuttiness

The words of a 19-year-old man who would identify himself only as Dylan summed up the argument as he saw it. “We’re not hurting anybody,” he said.

Dylan was referring to the annual march in favor of marijuana legalization that takes place at the University of Colorado each April 20.  Similar demonstrations took place elsewhere around the nation.

What counts as “hurting people”? Apparently not disrupting an institution of higher learning and keeping its faculty and students from the business of learning during the 4 o’clock hour on that day. Apparently also not the cost to the University of Colorado to clean up the mess the annual “protesters” leave. The school estimated this at $50,000.

Protesters at the University of Colorado. Photo from

But then, “distorted perceptions, impaired coordination, difficulty with thinking and problem solving” are among the side effects of marijuana reported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, so maybe Dylan can be excused.

What is the ACLU’s excuse?

When the university announced it was through putting up with the annual disruption that had nothing to do with its mission as a state university, the legal director for the ACLU’s Colorado chapter was quoted by as saying it was a “misguided effort to thwart students’ right of association and right to free expression.” He wasn’t sure whether the organization would attempt legal action.

Maybe the Constitution doesn’t spell out a right to learn at a university free from loud and unruly disruptions, but that would seem to be important, if common sense were a guide.

This is one of those rare instances where a public university decided to stand up to nuttiness masquerading as a serious exercise of rights.  The university stuck to its word last Friday and closed campus to all but official visitors and actual students. Even student government supported that move.

That didn’t stop hundreds of people from going to a nearby field and lighting up joints in full view of police, who did nothing.

The school has a party reputation, which it wants to shake. More importantly, though, the marijuana movement is trying to get past its medically-uses-only restrictions in 16 states and into full legalization.

With any luck, voters will see this kind of silliness for what it is.

As university Chancellor Philip DiStefano said about the annual intrusion at the school: “If it is a protest, then every party on every college campus in America is a protest.”

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About the Author

Jay Evensen

Jay Evensen is the Senior Editorial Columnist for the Deseret News. He has 32 years of journalism experience covering politics and a variety of other assignments at news organizations ranging from United Press International in New York City to the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Deseret News, where he has worked since 1986. During that time, he has won numerous local, regional and national awards. Most recently, he was given the Cameron Duncan Media Award, given annually in Washington, D.C., by the advocacy group RESULTS, to the journalist judged to have done the most to further the cause of the world's poorest people.


  1. David King

    It’s easy to make fun of college students who make poor decisions. What’s more difficult is to get past our visceral reactions towards marijuana and ask if prohibition and our so-called “war on drugs” is worth it. Think back to January, and the tragedy in Ogden that resulted in the death of an officer and five others being injured. What do we gain when officers break down a door, guns at the ready, in search of a plant that has done less damage to society than alcohol or nicotine? Why do we refuse to talk about the fact that even though drug use among different ethnicities is similar, drug laws have imprisoned a disproportionate number of the poor and minorities? Can we say we are winning the war on drugs? Or is it more correct to say we have enriched drug lords and dealers, and created a trap for inner-city kids, hoping to break the cycle of poverty? What would be the allure if marijuana were legal, and drug-dealing was no more profitable than honest work? We have a lot of work to do, and a lot of questions to ask, if we want to end the cycle of billions spent, men and women in uniform lost, and incarcerating our people at a higher rate than any other developed country.

    • CLM

      You’ve said it all, David. An eloquent rationale for the legalization of drugs, starting with marijuana. It’s not just kids and the issue certainly isn’t silly. Thank you.

  2. LDS Liberal

    I’ll tell you what is nuttier….

    The supposed war on Reefers.

    A natural, harmless, non addictive analgesic, with known medical properties — and the $100 Billion wasted annually to a loosing battle to South American drug cartels and creating the highest prison population in the World for petty crimes.

    Rather than wasting $$$ on police, prisons, and making the Drug Lords rich…
    Legalize it, Tax it.

  3. rikderrieranger

    the author is highly misinformed if he believes support for legalization starts and ends with partying college dudes or even marijuana users. there are plenty of older Americans, like myself, who do not and would not partake of marijuana but still believe it should be legalized, controlled and taxed. we’ve been fighting a losing war against the drug and drug users for what… half a century now? it’s obviously a losing and extremely expensive battle. this course of action is failing and has been failing for decades. it’s time to try a completely different course of action.

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