"4-20" Impacts

To: UCSC Community

From: Nader Oweis, Chief of Police, UC Santa Cruz Police Department ; Sue Matthews, Associate Vice Chancellor, CHES ; Mary Knudtson, Executive Director, Cowell Student Health Center

With another unsanctioned "4-20" event anticipated, UC Santa Cruz police and campus partners want to bring to your attention to some of the impacts this event has on our campus and community. An event centered around marijuana and other drugs poses many safety and health concerns.
Many students have strong feelings about "4-20" on our campus. Some feel the event is fun and no big deal, while others who are in recovery from substance addiction find "4-20" is very triggering. Many students worry about environmental impacts in the meadow. A growing number of students see "4-20" and recent negative media attention as harmful to UC Santa Cruz’s reputation.
For many reasons, "4-20" is challenging. These challenges include the ever-increasing associated costs and significant concerns for health and safety. Financially, the campus is expecting to spend approximately $100,000 this year to have officers and additional support staff on campus to ensure the health and safety of our campus community. 
Every year, several students are hospitalized for excessive use of drugs and alcohol during “4-20.” Although many associate this event with just marijuana, our experience has been that there are high levels of poly-drug use in the meadow.  This includes alcohol, prescription drugs, Ecstasy (MDMA), LSD, mushrooms, and other drugs. Moreover, those smoking and/or  ingesting highly concentrated forms of marijuana with high THC levels have experienced hallucinations, disorientation, uncontrollable vomiting, and severe dehydration. Some attendees in prior years have become disoriented and combative – becoming a harm to themselves and others. Therefore we will have a significant presence of police officers throughout the campus to keep those present and the community safe. Our staff have also had to address people who bring small children into the meadow, as well as middle and high school students who are drawn to the event. 
Since the beginning of the fall quarter, the UC Santa Cruz Police Department, Student Health Center, CAPS, and SHOP have come across an increasing number of individuals experiencing a marijuana-induced psychosis, known as “cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome,”  after using highly concentrated marijuana. In fact, one of the 2015 overdose deaths reported by the Santa Cruz County Coroner’s Office included a student who died from this syndrome.  
We encourage you to engage in dialogue with your peers and talk about the impacts “4-20” has on others.
Students in recovery: Extra support available on 4-20
For students in long-term recovery from alcohol and/or other drugs; for students who have family members who struggle with alcohol and/or other drugs; and for students new to recovery, "4-20" can be a very hard day. SHOP’s Alcohol & Other Drug Educator Jorge Bru will be available as well as additional staff to offer support at The Cove, from 2–6 p.m., located on the lower piazzetta at Kresge College, Suite 153. To learn more about The Cove and our student recovery group Slugs for Health & Growth, contact Jorge Bru at jbru@ucsc.edu or 831-459-1417.  Additionally SHOP staff will be available if students need support. CARE will also open its office as a safe and sober place for students to gather and support each other.
If attending 4-20: Tips from SHOP
Although we strongly encourage students to refrain from attending “4-20,” we want to provide resources if students choose to attend. 
  • If a student is experiencing health issues related to marijuana use they should seek medical attention by calling 911 or alert an emergency responder on scene.
  • If you see someone who is a danger to themselves or others, please call 911 or alert an emergency responder.
  • There are many unknowns with edibles and dabs. Please consider the unknown dosage of these items. When people ingest more than their tolerance level of THC they often experience uncontrollable vomiting that can lead to life-threatening dehydration. A large concern is for first-time users who ingest marijuana and have no knowledge of dosage levels or any tolerance with using these drugs. 
  • If a friend is significantly impacted by alcohol and other drugs after the "4-20" event, do NOT just take them back to their room, tuck them into a bed, and leave them alone. These students need to be observed and cared for. If you see signs of overdose or are concerned about a student’s health or well-being, contact 911 immediately. 
  • SHOP advises students to have a “party plan:” do not mix substances, stay hydrated, attend with people you know and trust, and always get help when needed.
  • If you choose to attend this event consider going to observe and NOT use drugs or alcohol. Many students attend to observe and choose to remain sober. No one should feel pressured to smoke or ingest edibles on “4-20.”
As highlighted in a campuswide email on April 4, there have been multiple news reports regarding UC Santa Cruz students arrested for drug sales and involved in drug-related fatalities.  If you see any students in need of help or recovery support, please direct them to resources available through the Student Health Outreach and Promotion (SHOP) program in the Cowell Student Health Center. Faculty and staff needing assistance may seek help through the Employee Assistance Program.
As a community, we must continue to shift the current paradigm regarding alcohol and other drugs. We must all engage in candid conversations about the inherent consequences of drug use, especially addressing harm and addiction, while taking the opportunity to reduce the “romantic” perception of drug culture. These arrests, the loss of life, and access to the large quantities of drugs, including alcohol and marijuana, should never be considered the norm on our campus.