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Getting By With A Little Help From Your Friends

By David A. Demilo

About a month ago, a student from another University walked into Currier House carrying $12,000 worth of hash oil, a dark brown, sweetsmelling, tar-like substance distilled from hashish ["You take 20 pounds of hash and you get two pounds of hash oil," the dealer said] By the time he left a week later, he had sold an ounce of the drug for $350 and a few grams for $20 each [a gram occupies about one-fourth of a bottle cap.]

Last February, three disgruntled Harvard students left a Yard dorm cursing two of their fellow freshmen for selling mescaline at the "outrageous" price of $2.50 per hit. They could have bought ten hits for only $20, not really a bargain either.

Hard drugs are still available at Harvard, but they are neither as cheap nor as easy to obtain as they were a decade ago. In the late '60s Harvard Square earned a reputation as one of the nation's clearinghouses for drugs. Today the narcotic industry at Harvard has ducked underground, and most hard drugs are available only intermittently.

But the business is still a profitable one. "From dealing grass alone, I can make as much as anyone who works dorm crew all year long," boasted one Harvard sophomore. "If I deal mesc or PCPs, acid or speed, I can make a small fortune every year--maybe pay my tuition!"

Student attitudes on drug usage range widely from enthusiasm to grudging acceptance to resolute disapproval. Though the Harvard community tolerates marijuana to the point where some students have smoked it in lecture halls, both pot and harder drugs are stigmatized in many circles here.

One freshman woman illustrated current attitudes among some students when she said, "Drug use is repulsive. I don't see anything wrong with drinking, but you have to draw the line somewhere, and drugs are simple degeneracy."

Drinking is openly and brashly accepted at Harvard, while pot and other drugs linger as whispers. One senior named Paul who admitted to using mescaline and acid monthly and who classified himself as a daily marijuana smoker said hotly, "This place is so hypocritical. They accept one of the most powerful drugs (alcohol) in plain open view but if I smoke a joint outside in the courtyard someone always glares at me. It's so hypocritical."

Most students interviewed who said they disapprove of marijuana also admitted that they have never tried the drug. Even those who frequently smoke pot approach harder drugs with extreme caution.

One student named John said he is somewhat awestruck by certain drugs because "there is a lot of power not to be messed with."

Nevertheless he said that he has had experience with more drugs since coming to Harvard than he ever did before. "I've discovered a lot of things through drugs I never would have discovered without them, and I've just had plain fun. It wasn't morally right to do it just for fun before, now I feel that having fun is justification in itself."

Grant Bue '80 said he has become "more open minded about the benefits of certain drugs" since coming to Harvard in the fall, but he is also more aware of "their disadvantages."

Liza H. Gold '80 also said she has "been exposed to stronger drugs here" than in her "quiet suburb in Jersey," but that most of her drug experience, as that of most Harvard students, has been confined to marijuana.

Despite pot's wide acceptance among most students, parents and law enforcement officials continue to group it with harder drugs. Cambridge police chief Leo F. Davenport said last week, "The problem with marijuana is that it leads to the harder stuff--LSD, cocaine, mescaline, speed, heroin, the stuff that will hurt you." Davenport still thinks that marijuana is "a major concern" for law enforcement officials.

The Harvard Police report that drug usage on campus, including marijuana use, is on the decline.

Sgt. Richard Smith of the Harvard Police criminal investigation unit said drug use has "gone way down from what it used to be. Most of the trafficking is done by outsiders. We haven't had any problem here in a long time, the last case of student drug trafficking we had was last year."

Last year, one student was caught by postal inspectors for receiving two kilos of marijuana. The Harvard Police confiscated the pot and the student was placed on probation.

"I think kids have gone back to beer and booze," Smith said. "It's an alternative that is cheaper and legal."

Smith said that the Harvard Police will not investigate drug traffic here unless it is a threat to the Harvard community--if an outsider, for instance, is dealing to the community. "Then the criminal element gets involved," he said, "and there is a potential danger of armed robbery or harm to students."

Archie C. Epps III, dean of students, said that he has seen drug use at Harvard "decline dramatically" since the early '70s and he hopes it continues. Epps feels that even pot use has declined.

Epps attributes the decline to better law enforcement regarding the entry of drugs into the city.

"Also," he said, "I think this generation of college students saw some of the bad experiences, such as bad trips and overdoses, that their elders had and I think they learned from them."

Epps remarked that Harvard both disciplines and tries to rehabilitate the student user.

"We went through some pretty horrible times three or four years ago--we have that experience in mind. People get involved in the criminal element. Drugs can cause serious disorders, and we remember them pretty well," Epps said.

Smith predicted the eventual legalization of marijuana. "I can support it in the sense that I can't see ruining someone's record for possession of an ounce or something."

As far as the police are concerned, Smith said, there is a big difference between possession of an ounce and two kilos as to what constitutes a threat to the Harvard community."

Dr. Paul Walters, chief of the Mental Health Service at UHS, said that students have been reporting an abundance of "amphetamine-type drugs" on the street, such as mescaline and PCPs. Though these drugs have been circulating in the student population, Walters reports no health or drug problems so far.

"Heavy drug use has declined since the early '70s," Walters said, "especially the use of hallucinogens."

Walters does not regard pot as a potential health problem because he has not seen it "disrupt anyone's life. People seem to be able to live with pot."

The personnel in the UHS emergency room only recall a few isolated cases of student overdoses.

Walters said, "I can't recall any specific overdose cases, but once in a while a student will take some bad drugs and will come in."

One freshman was placed in Stillman infirmary for a night because he took two double-hits of PCP. "All of a sudden," he said, "I started hearing every noise in the University. I was going crazy. I really thought I was going to die, so I called UHS."

After taking her first hit of PCP during the fall, one sophomore woman became very frightened and climbed into a bathtub. She feared standing up and climbing out of the tub. Her boyfriend stayed by her for an hour holding her hand and comforting her.

One sophomore found one of his friends in total disarray this fall after he had dropped acid. "He was having these weird, uncontrollable muscle contractions in his face," he said. "I had to sit near him and calm him down all night, he was so scared. I think someone had slipped him something with the acid."

Grant Bue, like many students, recognizes the dangers of experimenting with hallucinogens. "There are certain things I would not want to do to my body. Some drugs are dangerous to the heart, some kill brain cells, and I really don't want to do that."

Paul is willing to risk certain health hazards in order to take drugs. The biology major "feels things that no straight person will ever experience." He says that drugs have "opened his consciousness" by intensifying his sensual perceptions when he is high, and by making him more "imaginative" and "observant."

"I think Allen Ginsberg summed it up best years ago when he said 'we make criminals and outcasts out of the most sensitive people in society.'"

"You can sip your cocktails and act like a Gatsby all you want," Paul says, "but we're just going to enjoy ourselves, me and my friends."

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