Throwback Thursday: College Media and the ‘Marijuana Beat’

Throwback Thursday is an occasional CMM feature focused on fascinating, impacting, controversial and quirky moments in contemporary college media history.

In 1971, The Yale Daily News at Yale University published a front-page story on the price of pot and larger weed trends at Ivy League schools. It is eye-widening and wow-emitting for its candor in discussing a drug that was and is (for the most part) still illegal.

Among the things I learned from the piece: 1) At the time, it appears University of Pennsylvania students were paying more for marijuana — $25 per ounce — than any other Ivy students. 2) A growing number of undergrads were growing their own pot (including in dorm closets, on dorm windowsills and via farms near Dartmouth College) and buying from domestic dealers rather than reaching out to contacts in Mexico. 3) Princeton University students preferred drinking at the time — with one student declaring “the novelty of dope is over.”

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Interestingly, this YDN article was apparently not so novel in respect to student newspapers’ devotion to “the marijuana beat” during the ’70s.

1As current Yale student journo extraordinaire Marissa Medansky writes for IvyGate, “The 1971 report was a high point in the paper’s remarkably extensive coverage of campus weed prices (not to mention weed scandals) throughout the decade. Archived materials from the YDN and other campus papers provide a detailed — and often very amusing — account of Ivy League drug use at a time when Clinton did not inhale and not all of the schools allowed women.”

Utilizing the Ivy papers’ archives, Medansky goes on to provide a remarkably detailed rundown of how much marijuana prices ran at various Ivy League schools — and the funny factors influencing the amounts. For example, “time and well-placed friends” scored you a better price for weed at Columbia University; “really good stuff” from Vietnam cost the most at Harvard; and Brown University students liked to save a few bucks by purchasing their pot in bulk. Separately, just FYI, from the ’70s: “[T]he average Yale closet ‘can produce about 20 full-sized marijuana plants a year, enough to supply a moderate smoker.'” There you go.

Bottom line, according to Medansky, “Without those records, we risk a kind of revisionism, an alternate version of Ivy League history where everyone wears letter sweaters and no one gets high. The pot and the protests are just as much a part of Ivy history — and Ivy present — as white dudes with superiority complexes and soulless automatons.”

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