Dope Decisions

If you're a new student, we know you're going to try marijuana. Just be smart about it.

Tucson welcomed back more than 40,000 residents last week as students once again pack into the University of Arizona campus. About 10,000 of those are new freshman with nearly 2,500 new students from out of state.

It's no secret that marijuana is prevalent in college culture, and the fresh faces on campus may be facing fresh experiences on that front at house parties and in the dorms. So for those new to Arizona and the independence that college brings, here's a rundown of what you should know before you start making decisions about marijuana.

First up, yes, marijuana is illegal in Arizona. A quick glance at the Daily Wildcat police beat and you'll find that students are regularly charged with possession in dorms and around campus. Furthermore, the UA has its own set of rules in the Code of Conduct that prohibit marijuana use among students.

Getting caught with marijuana can jeopardize not only your academic career, but other aspects of your life as well.

That being said, we know some of you are going to do it anyway.

The best thing to do is keep it on the up-and-up. Getting a medical marijuana card isn't difficult and is certainly available to temporary residents.

More than 80 percent of Arizona medical marijuana cardholders get their cards for chronic pain. While that may be a less frequent condition amongst the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed youngins of college age, hours in front of computers are known to yield lower-back and wrist pains which may warrant medical treatment.

Head to one of Tucson's many marijuana referral doctors for an evaluation to see if you're eligible for a card. If you need a quick appointment, check out Dr. Reeferalz on Broadway Boulevard near Tucson Boulevard or Dr. IV:XX (420) at Fourth Avenue and Seventh Street.

For the very best in determining which treatment best suits your need, go see Heather Moroso at the Moroso Medical Clinic on Speedway Boulevard and Second Street.

A typical visit will cost around $150 ($75 if you qualify for SNAP benefits) and the card fee runs you $150.

There is also a form to fill out on the Arizona Department of Health Services website or at the doctor's office, which will require a photo ID and the OK from your doctor.

Even with a card, however, marijuana is still illegal on college campuses in Arizona. (See last week's column on the pending court case pertaining to the issue.)

For the rest of you who scoff in the face of the law (and there are plenty of you), be smart about your use of illicit substances.

At one point or another, someone at a college party will pressure you to take a puff. Don't panic. One of marijuana's most debilitating side-effects is paranoia. If you're not in a comfortable environment or around people you trust, save it for another time. (There will be another time.)

If you decide to take the plunge, just remember, all things in moderation. Marijuana isn't an immediate onset. Don't get impatient and down a bowl on your first drag. Take it slow, feel it out and find your sweet spot. It'll be much safer if you're not worried about your behavior and what other people might be thinking about you.

Finally, as I said before, just be smart about it. That goes for the veterans as well. There is a time and place to enjoy the headspace of a nice high. Don't smoke in the dorms or in public. Find someplace comfy, quiet and safe. All other responsibilities come first. Don't let marijuana get in the way of that.

In the worst-case scenario that you find yourself on the wrong side of the law, UA offers a misdemeanor diversion program that you can find on the Dean of Students website. The program exchanges your charge for some community service and a reflection on our sins.

As long as you're picky about the time, place and people with which you smoke, you shouldn't find yourself in trouble. One last time: just be smart about it. Have fun, be safe, and focus on the important stuff.

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