Tyler Gross

College can be the most fun, engaging, sex-charged, memory-making four to six years of your life. It can also be a stressful, dramatic shitshow that leaves you decades in debt and, quite possibly, dead.

Pacific Northwest Ballet presents: Romeo et Juliette at McCaw Hall
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Let's try to reduce the possibility of the second option, all right?

The single largest cause of college student deaths is alcohol, either due to drinking-related accidents or just plain binging until you choke to death on your own barf while your roommates are playing Fortnite in the next room.

While this is a less than a dignified way to go out, drinking is also, paradoxically, the easiest way to have a good time. The right amount of booze greases the gears, drops the inhibitions, turns shy people chatty, and turns loud people into whirling dervishes. It's super fun to get drunk with your friends. But it's also—and it sucks that this is true, but it is undoubtedly true—really fucking bad for you.

But fear not, my newly adult friend, because there is another drug out there that you can binge on all you want, and the worst thing that will happen to you is waking up with Cheeto dust in your hair. And, the best part, it's legal in this state and hardly anywhere else!

Now the bad news: It's not legal until you're 21. This is why it's important to have older friends. Not only can they tell how much better the '90s were, they can get you weed, too. Of course, this is definitely not legal, and so I am contractually obligated to say that you shouldn't share weed with anyone younger than 21 if you are older than 21 (because it's against the law), and you shouldn't smoke weed until you are of age (to be honest, there is something to this).

In 2012, a meta-analysis of 13 studies found that in full-grown adults, the negative side effects of weed—for instance, memory problems—dissipated after stoners took just 25 days off. When it comes to teens, however, the research is less bullish. Some brain-imaging studies have shown that teenage weed smokers have altered brain structures and diminished connectivity between the brain hemispheres, which is not great when you're in college trying to learn shit.

That said, more research needs to be done, and scientists don't know that these changes are permanent, so don't freak out if you accidentally hit the bong a few hundred times before you turn 21. I did, and I'm pretty much fine.

If you are going to smoke, here are the ground rules: There is zero tolerance for underage possession in this state. That said, if you're busted with weed and you aren't 21, you will probably not go to jail (unless you live in Asotin County in Eastern Washington, which charged three teens with felony possession—punishable by up to five years in prison—in 2015). You could, however, get a hefty fine. You will also run afoul of your campus rules and may be punished by your school. It's also technically illegal to smoke weed anywhere in Washington State outside of a home that you personally own (stupid law, right?), although the penalty for smoking up in a park is usually a $27 fine.

If you have never ingested weed before, vaping is definitely the way to go. For one, you can ingest it anywhere. But also, its effects on you are subtler than smoking and it's better for your lungs.

When it comes to activities, weed improves the experience of doing chores, running errands, taking walks, playing games, watching movies, eating, sleeping, having sex, exercising, and Thanksgiving at your grandparents' house. It does not improve going to class or studying. Do not attempt to write papers or do projects or study for your exams or take exams while you are high—unless you are an art major, in which case, enjoy.

Other than that, just have fun with it. If you get paranoid, remember that the feeling will, indeed, soon pass.

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