Ivy League Student Needs Alcohol Drug Class

by: Mike Miller

He made need an alcohol drug class, but that will only be part of the solution to the serious problem facing him. A student charged with selling marijuana as part of a prolific drug-dealing ring at Columbia University in New York will get a chance to wipe his record clean by spending at least a year living in a drug-abuse treatment center.


Christopher Coles is the only one of five students arrested in the case to get that opportunity, extended to more than 1,000 people statewide each year. The Columbia students are perhaps the most high-profile defendants to try to get the option, known as diversion to treatment, since 2009 changes in state law gave judges more latitude to use it.

The 21-year-old Coles, charged with selling as much as a pound of marijuana to an undercover officer, was in just that predicament. The political science and anthropology major from Maryland developed a $70-to-$100-a-day pot-smoking habit while in college and sought treatment for it on campus weeks before his arrest last December.

Meanwhile, Coles' parents took a stand against his drug use by cutting him off financially, so he sold the drugs to finance his habit.

But the city Special Narcotics Prosecutor's office said Coles' dealing was motivated by profit-seeking, not addiction. Coles is seen on video making businesslike, sober-seeming transactions with the undercover officer.

Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Ellen Coin, who oversees a special drug court, decided Coles was a fit for the diversion program, which may cost his family up to $3,000 a month. He's due to start treatment after a Dec. 20 court date. If he succeeds, the case would ultimately be dismissed; if he fails, he would face a sentence yet to be determined.

While diversion programs have existed in New York for years, a 2009 overhaul of the state's once notoriously stringent drug laws argued in part that addicted offenders would more likely be reformed by treatment than by prison.

I am all for reform rather than prison time. If this is the kid’s first offense, why not give him a chance at redemption. Although, as a recovering alcoholic and drug addict I find it virtually impossible to have a $70-100 per day pot habit.