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CU Trying To Snuff Campus Pot Fest Tradition

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An image for the 4/20 rally in Boulder in 2011 (credit: CBS)

An image for the 4/20 rally in Boulder in 2011 (credit: CBS)

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) – The University of Colorado says more than half of students attended or watched a marijuana outdoor smoking festival last spring, despite efforts from the school to snuff the campus “4/20 smoke-out” some students believe is a university-sanctioned event.

The school released results of its first-ever student survey on the 4/20 event to the Daily Camera newspaper. The pot fest has drawn up to 10,000 people in recent years.

Survey results requested by the Camera showed that about 24 percent of students smoked pot or ate food containing marijuana at the gathering. About 11 percent joined the crowd but didn’t consume pot. Just less than half of students, or 48.4 percent, said they had nothing to do with the smoke-out. The remaining students watched it from a distance.

Kelsey Laszlo, a CU junior studying physics and Japanese, said she watched the gathering her freshman year. She said the 4/20 smoke-out seems like a “campus tradition” — but students shouldn’t be fooled that it’s a drug-law protest.

“It’s an excuse to get high,” Laszlo said.

Only 9 percent of students said the smoke-out could be described as a political movement. The majority — 52 percent — said it’s a recreational or social gathering.

Campus spokesman Bronson Hilliard said the university needs to do a better job communicating to students that just because there are police officers at the event to monitor safety and minimize disruptions, CU doesn’t sponsor the smoke-out.

“Drug policies aren’t made on a college campus,” he said. “We’d love to see it migrate to the state Capitol.”

Nearly all students surveyed said they received the email administrators sent trying to dissuade them from participating in 4/20, but still about 50 percent of respondents said it seemed like the smoke-out was a university-sponsored event.

The 4/20 gathering — which some participants say is a demonstration against drug laws — should not be happening on a college campus, Hilliard said. He doesn’t want to displace the event elsewhere in Boulder, though, because that would make CU a “bad neighbor.”

“Drug policies aren’t made on a college campus,” he said. “We’d love to see it migrate to the state Capitol.”

Deb Coffin, interim vice chancellor for student affairs, said the data from the survey helps the university better target its messages to non-resident students and shape orientation sessions.

“We’re trying to help them understand we’re concerned about their health and welfare,” she said.

Donald Misch, assistant vice chancellor for health and wellness, said that because marijuana is being prescribed for medicinal purposes, students are underestimating its potential to distract them from learning.

“It’s not an easy message,” he said. “Students think that because it’s being used for medicinal purposes that it’s benign. But marijuana use interferes with learning and memory.”

The survey results show that students “age out” of 4/20 and that the crowd tends to draw first-year students in heavier numbers.

“Students hear about it before they even come to campus, and they are interested to see it,” said Carly Robinson, CU Student Government’s vice president of internal affairs.

CU’s Alcohol Research and Initiatives Committee partnered with Wardenburg’s Community Health program to conduct the survey. It survey was sent out following this year’s smoke-out, and 3,478 undergraduates responded.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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