Some Students Hope Legalized Marijuana Will Grow Campus Culture

After a statewide legalization of recreational marijuana took effect in Massachusetts Thursday, some Harvard undergraduates said they think the new legislation will change the University’s campus culture for the better.

Massachusetts residents voted Nov. 8 to legalize recreational marijuana, with 53.6 percent of the vote in favor of the measure and 46.4 percent opposed. In Cambridge, the 71.3 percent of voters supported legalization.

At the time, many Harvard students said they were pleased by the results of the vote. According to The Crimson’s election survey, legalization of marijuana saw widespread support on campus ahead of the election. A majority of survey respondents—roughly 65 percent—said they backed the proposal.

Some in favor of the measure say the drug may help to improve the College’s social scene, where administrators have toyed with the role of alcohol—Harvard’s most commonly-used substance—on campus for several years. Harvard has a fraught history with hard alcohol, and a sexual assault report published in March 2016 suggested Harvard consider banning liquor entirely.

Aaron L. Fogelson ’19 said he believes the new law will improve the culture on campus by creating social spaces where those who are “more weed-prone than alcohol-prone” can spend time together.

“I think that’s a safer environment than alcohol,” he said. “Weed is a nicer way to spend a Thursday night, no violence, get to bed by 11:30, if you know what I mean.”

Tout Lin ’19 and Timothy J. Cavanaro ’18, however, said they see the legalization of marijuana as unlikely to affect Harvard’s student body.

Recent graduate Sonia E. Espinosa ’15, a self-described “cannabis entrepreneur” and co-founder of the Cannabis Cultural Association, agreed with Fogelson. Espinosa’s group works to involve underrepresented groups in the legal marijuana industry, according to its website.

“I hope [legalization] will change Harvard culture,” she said. “Look at our campus, how many freshmen end up going to the Harvard University Police Department from drinking, and compare that to the number of students that have to go seek medical attention from cannabis.”

“I think you’re going to notice a really big difference,” Espinosa added.

Canavaro, Lin, and Fogelson all said they were personally glad the measure passed.

“I think it’s great,” Lin said of the recent legislation. “You don’t really have to partake if you don’t want to, but if you do, it’s great that it’s legal because now you can.”

Despite recent legalization, Harvard’s current policy bans the possession and distribution of marijuana by all students on campus. Last week, Harvard University Health Services Director Paul J. Barreira said he was unaware of any potential changes in the University’s drug and alcohol policy following passage of the new legislation.

Not all Harvard students said they were pleased by the legalization of the drug and its potential role in students’ social lives. Matthew E. Cappucci ’19, who said he was against the legalization ballot measure, wrote in an email that he worries the legalization of marijuana might lead to its rampant proliferation.

The increasing presence of marijuana could end up tempting more people towards “far worse drugs,” he wrote. He also said he was concerned about the drug’s odor.

“I don’t look forward to sitting at home in Plymouth with my family on the back porch and having that skunk-like smell wafting over in the breeze,” Cappucci wrote.

Cappucci added that, in the wake of the drug’s legalization, he had already noticed students sending out email blasts over dorm lists in an attempt to locate marijuana.

But he said that he didn't see much of a change on Thursday night, when the drug became legal.

“My head was too far into an atmospheric dynamics book for me to notice,” he wrote.

—Staff writer Hannah Natanson can be reached at hannah.natanson@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @hannah_natanson.

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