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Photo of Matt M. McClenahen
Photo of Matt M. McClenahen

What if State Patty’s Day Were a Different Kind of Green

by | Mar 1, 2016 | State Patty's Day

State Patty’s Day made a resurgence in 2016, with a corresponding increase in alcohol-related arrests and overdoses over 2015. After the Penn State drinking holiday gradually decreased in magnitude over the past few years, restrictions were relaxed on bars, fraternities and apartment parties this year. Although arrests and police calls were up, 2016 paled in comparison to 2011, the year with the worst State Patty’s Day behavior. Naturally, some responsible adults in State College and even some undergrad students are alarmed and outraged by the collateral damage caused by a massive army of drunkards.


But what if Penn State had a different kind of green holiday. What if we had a holiday dedicated to marijuana instead of alcohol? The simple answer is that things would certainly be a lot less destructive if we had an open-air concert where people freely partook in cannabis and refrained from booze. Any problems likely to arise from such a gathering would be from drunks or people wigging out on LSD. The stoners would not be a problem.

Alcohol is a directly criminogenic drug. People do crazy and inappropriate things when they are drunk, which they would never do sober. A large percentage of my caseload at any given time is comprised of polite, well-socialized students from good families, who simply lost control of their cognitive functioning after ingesting way more alcohol than they can handle. In their inebriated states, these students often do things to violate the rights of others or take up valuable medical services resources.

By contrast, another large percentage of my caseload is comprised of polite, well-socialized students from good families, who merely possessed or sold marijuana. I rarely, if ever, have a marijuana client who got into a fight, damaged or vandalized property, committed a sexual assault, unwittingly walked into the wrong house or apartment, vomited on apartment steps, urinated in an elevator, or had sex in the backyard of unsuspecting borough residents. The marijuana clients usually did nothing more than merely possess or sell parts of a plant and/ or devices used to smoke said plant, otherwise known as “drug paraphernalia.”

Of course, the great irony is that alcohol is legal for anyone over 21 while marijuana prohibition remains in effect for everyone in Pennsylvania. I would never advocate for a return to alcohol prohibition. Not only did the 18th Amendment and Volstead Act account for one of the greatest domestic policy failures in US history, such a prohibitionist stance would also be rather hypocritical for someone like me who honors his Celtic and Teutonic heritage by imbibing in Scotch and German beer. Instead, I advocate for the end of cannabis prohibition. It is absurd and illogical to outlaw a plant, which imposes few if any negative externalities, while a highly criminogenic drug like alcohol is legal. If marijuana legalization leads to more people smoking weed, then that will be a very positive development if it means these same people are drinking less.

Matt McClenahen is a criminal defense attorney and Penn State alumnus in State College, PA. He has been a member of the NORML Legal Committee since 2006.

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