Take the official tour of any college or university, and you’ll soon find yourself strolling through the quad, visiting a dorm room, marveling at the size of the library, stopping in for a “not-so-bad” lunch at the cafeteria and even meeting a student hand-selected to answer your questions about life on campus. Feel free to inquire about the guy-girl ratio, fraternity life or the percentage of undergrads who eventually go on to attend graduate school. Just don’t ask the one question that’s probably at the forefront of your mind: Is this a good school for stoners (like me)?
America’s institutions of higher education would soon come to a grinding halt without marijuana smokers—including students, professors, deans, administrators, maintenance workers and the coach of the women’s field-hockey team—yet these same colleges and universities are understandably none too eager to publicize their populations’ participation in this important (albeit illicit) aspect of academic life. That’s where your high-minded friends at HIGH TIMES come in handy. Each autumn, we rank the top schools in the country from the cannabis community’s point of view. This year, with the help of Students for Sensible Drug Policy executive director Kris Krane (see interview below), we’ve put the emphasis on activism, particularly when it comes to ending America’s long and disastrous War on Drugs.
As Krane and everyone else intimately involved in the struggle to declare peace and end the Drug War knows, we need a new generation of dedicated, educated activists ready and eager for a “head-on” collision with our nation’s misguided marijuana policy and with the corrupt system that supports it. If you feel like you’re up to the challenge of freeing the weed, you’ll be sure to find some kindred spirits at one of our Top 10 Counterculture Colleges.
1. UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND
COLLEGE PARK, MD
Out-of-State Tuition: $21,345
Web Site: umd.edu
UMD, which hosted the 2004 Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) national conference, has extremely active SSDP and National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) chapters that work closely together. In April they ran a successful Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER) initiative, demanding that penalties for on-campus marijuana use be equivalent to those imposed for underage drinking, an effort that passed with 66 percent of the student-body vote. The groups have also been
promoting a plan to stop the school from bringing city police onto campus to deal with minor marijuana infractions.
2. UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA - SANTA BARBARA
SANTA BARBARA, CA
Out-of-State Tuition: $24,813
Web Site: ucsb.edu
UCSB NORML president Lauren Vazquez was presented with the NORML Student Activism award at the 2006 NORML conference in San Francisco after inspiring her group to travel the state, helping start NORML chapters on three additional campuses. They also persuaded their own student government to pass a resolution calling on the university to lower marijuana-possession penalties.
3. UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI - COLUMBIA
Out-of-State Tuition: $17,522
Web Site: missouri.edu
The SSDP and NORML chapters at UMC have accomplished more change in their local community than any other university organization in recent history. In 2004, students from the SSDP, NORML and ACLU chapters on campus ran two initiatives in Columbia, MO. The initiative to protect medical-marijuana patients from arrest passed with 69 percent of the vote, while an initiative to treat marijuana possession as the city’s lowest law-enforcement priority earned 62 percent.
4. UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO
Out-of-State Tuition: $22,826
Web Site: colorado.edu
Last year’s highest-ranking university faced a cannabis crisis on April 20, when campus police went undercover at the UC Boulder’s annual unofficial 4/20 celebration, took photos of “trespassing” stoners getting high on Farrand Field and then posted them online, offering a $50 reward to any anonymous snitch who could make an ID. Unintimidated, Boulder’s stoners are fighting back with a lawsuit against the school, coordinated by the same SAFER activists who helped an alcohol-marijuana equalization initiative pass in Denver and who now have their sights set on all of Colorado.
5. UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA
Out-of-State Tuition: $16,491
Web Site: ucf.edu
The NORML chapter at UCF is arguably the largest and best-funded student drug-policy organization in the country. Last year the group was voted best organization on campus by the student body, won best float in the UCF homecoming parade and raised enough money to send 20 students cross-country to attend the 2006 NORML conference in San Francisco. A few veteran NORML activists are currently in the process of forming an SSDP chapter as well, which will focus on changing punitive campus drug policies.
6. UNIVERSITY OF RHODE ISLAND
Out-of-State Tuition: $19,926
Web Site: uri.edu
Helming one of the most visible chapters in the country, URI SSDP leaders have worked closely with their school’s administration—sometimes collaboratively and sometimes combatively. They persuaded university president Robert Carothers to lobby Congress to repeal the HEA Aid Elimination Penalty, which strips financial aid from students with a drug conviction, while simultaneously organizing a rally with hundreds of students demanding the administration rescind its policies of searching dorms without cause, and of punishing students for off-campus acts. Along with Brown University SSDP, URI students were instrumental in getting Rhode Island’s new medical-marijuana law passed.
7. SUNY NEW PALTZ
NEW PALTZ, NY
Out-of-State Tuition: $11,520
Web Site: newpaltz.edu
SUNY New Paltz SSDP/NORML has gained a reputation as one of the most active organizations on campus. Longtime leader Justin Holmes was recently elected student-body president for the entire university, and in April of this year, SUNY New Paltz hosted the 2006 Northeast Regional SSDP conference. The chapter has also organized large rallies in an attempt to force the administration to stop kicking students out of their dorms for marijuana possession, and holds an annual Rock Against Racism concert that’s become a campus tradition.
8. McGILL UNIVERSITY
Out-of-State Tuition: $15,000
Web Site: mcgill.ca
Montreal’s premier university has the most active student drug-policy-reform group in Canada. Eric Rumi originally formed McGill’s NRA (National Reefer Association), which then morphed into the first official chapter of Canada SSDP and, in advance of the DEA International Drug Enforcement conference in early May, played an integral role in organizing and promoting a counter-symposium of drug-policy experts from around the world. McGill SSDP is currently working to help form a nationwide Canada SSDP organization.
9. FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY
Out-of-State Tuition: $16,340
Web Site: fsu.edu
FSU has a long-standing NORML chapter and a new SSDP chapter. Last semester these organizations joined forces to run a successful SAFER initiative, in which 60 percent of the student body called on the administration to treat marijuana-possession offenses on campus the same as underage drinking. FSU NORML has also been actively involved in lobbying the Florida state legislature to pass industrial-hemp legislation.
10. BROWN UNIVERSITY
Out-of-State Tuition: $35,352
Web Site: brown.edu
Brown students, along with their colleagues at the University of Rhode Island, led the campaign to successfully pass Rhode Island’s medical-marijuana law in 2006, making their home state the 11th in the country to protect patients who use the plant and the first to override a governor’s veto of such legislation. Also, the university’s SSDP chapter hosts a drug-resource center on campus, where fellow students can obtain accurate and science-based information on the effects of intoxicants.