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Health official: Legal pot in nearby states might lead to increase in use at Utah State

February 26th, 2015 Posted in Opinion

Nearly half the states in the union, including four of six bordering Utah, have legalized some form of marijuana use — and a Utah State University Wellness Center staff member has predicted that could lead to more drug-related cases on campus.

Oregon’s recreational marijuana laws are set to go into effect in July. Colorado legalized recreational pot use in 2012. Both states have border cities within a five-hour drive of Utah State’s campus in Logan.

Prevention specialist Ryan Barfuss said he believes Utah State may experience more drug-related cases on campus as a result.

“The majority of what we see is alcohol, but we are seeing an increase in marijuana,” Barfuss said.

When someone is charged on campus with either a minor in possession or another charge for a controlled substance, he or she is required to go to the student Health and Wellness Center.

“We carry out the charge,” said Kim Ellis, a USU police officer. “From there the courts decide what they will need to do, but they always have to use the Wellness Center if it happened on campus.”

For now, though, the number of cases involving any sort of drug on campus is low. According to the USU Department of Public Safety daily crime log, this year there have been four drug related charges.

That’s not low enough for Barfuss, though. He wants to launch a new drug and alcohol information course for people coming into college, beyond what is already taught at Student Orientation and Registration.

“A-Team members give a small blip to students during SOAR,” Barfuss said, “but they are overwhelmed with so much. I want to get to them before they even step foot on campus.”

The most common groups Barfuss works with are fraternity and sorority members, student athletes and incoming freshman.

Despite a national movement toward normalization and legalization of marijuana, Utah State’s demographics may limit the extent of adoption of marijuana as a social drug. About two-thirds of the school’s students are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which expects its members to eschew alcohol and recreational drugs.

“USU already has a pretty low percentage,” he said. “Only about 25 percent of students drink while at other colleges you may see about 75 percent of students drink.”

Cassie Davie, Anna Tuckett, Jason Tebbs, Chase Ringle and Michael Morales contributed to this report.


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