Two days ago, every student on campus who smokes cannabis with any degree of frequency probably did so, most likely to excess. Plenty of occasional smokers or even first-timers, pushed on by friends and the drug’s rising national awareness, joined in to celebrate the hazy holiday. Between all the joints, bowls, blunts, bong rips, cut up water bottle pipes, and dabs consumed by the campus population, something remarkable occurred: nothing bad happened.
Sure, the workers at snackbar likely had an entertaining evening. And certainly, security was called to disperse more than a few groups smoking in inappropriate locations. But when you put it against even the most tame Friday or Saturday night on this campus, the negative consequences of even the most outlandish overconsumption probably seem insignificant.
We go to a school with an abysmal party scene. First Fridays has 20 people there when you show up, Hoxsey parties are more physical than playing O-line, and parties in a dorm that security don’t shut down are few and far between. Despite this, we all get emails from the Dean reporting that 1 in 5 of our female ephs gets sexually assaulted during their time at Williams. This isn’t good, and it’s certainly not the norm, even among our peer institutions. You can blame the population, the location, the weather or the dorm system, but at the end of the day the weekend social scene is paradoxically both boring and dangerous.
Facing these realities, many students choose to avoid parties and stay in with their friends on Friday and Saturday nights. I personally have long since stopped hyping myself up with pep talks and hard alcohol to try and make a good time out of a 30 person school dance. And while it may not be as obvious as the college’s drinking culture, there exists a prevailing culture of cannabis consumption on campus. For some, it’s the perfect drug after a day of homework and studying; it makes you happy, hungry, then sleepy. I consider myself a part of this culture, and I write to you today to make a case for its acceptance, by student and school.
Marijuana is decriminalized in Massachusetts. That means that simple possession of a personal amount (under 28 grams, roughly a full ziplock bag) cannot be pursued in a criminal capacity. If picked up with weed by a cop having a bad day, you face a 100 dollar civic fine that will never set foot on your legal record. Furthermore, long-time residents of Massachusetts can apply for medical Marijuana to treat conditions such as stress, pain, and nausea. In 2008, voters in Massachusetts recognized the fact that 42% of state residents from age 18-25 use Marijuana occasionally, and that punishing these people for a victimless crime is pointless.
As long as you’re not selling weed, you don’t have a thing to worry about as far as the police go. So let’s talk about campus security. Williams is a residential campus–students must live in college-provided housing for the first 3 years of study. Part of the agreement every residential student signs allows campus security to search your room and any college possessions (i.e. your desk, your dresser) at their discretion. This is standard throughout most colleges. What isn’t standard, is how security behaves when they come into contact with weed. School policy demands that a security officer, upon noticing even the scent of Marijuana, must call the police and follow through on bringing the student to justice. If you have ever been let off the hook with weed, the officer was risking his or her job, at least to a minor extent. That means that if you lock yourself out of your room, or receive a noise complaint, or leave something out during a fire drill, you could be subject to a police investigation simply for the possession of Marijuana. In contrast, Massachusetts doesn’t even consider the smell of burnt Marijuana probable cause for the search of a car or home.
For example, a friend of mine was recently caught with a piece of Marijuana paraphernalia. Security, on an unrelated noise complaint, smelled weed and found a small pipe in his jacket. They called the police, brought him outside, and oversaw the writing of a $100 civic ticket. To quote the police officer who gave it to him, “I don’t know what the school will do with you, but I don’t give a shit if you smoke weed. You have to pay this ticket though.” To quote the receptionist who took the fine at the municipal building, “I don’t see why they don’t just leave you guys alone, that stuff doesn’t hurt anybody.” This student had to talk with the head of security, and was given a strike against his school record.
A private campus security force should do everything within its power to keep the police away from its students. For many of us, the main thing that could hurt our chances at post-grad employment is a legal record. Unfortunately, our current system has created a school where the simple possession of a drug that your grandparents don’t even care if you do will lead to an interaction with a police officer. If you have a little too much, if you have a couple bags, if you have a scale, things could go horribly, horribly wrong.
To the college: Stop prosecuting kids for smoking weed. Stop calling the cops. If someone’s smoking inside, give them a fire code violation, since that’s really not safe or respectful. If someone’s got a little weed in their desk while you’re checking the room over spring break, leave it there. It was expensive. Finally, say your prayers that your students choose to smoke a joint instead of downing a fifth of jack when they go out to relax on a Saturday night. Focus your attention on the incredibly serious problem of sexual assault, which is directly related to the unhealthy attitude our students have towards alcohol. Let the Adams County drug police focus on the heroin issue that has destroyed the surrounding area. If you see kids smoking a joint in a circle, 25 feet away from a building, leave them be, or, better yet, come chill with us.
For more discourse on a rational approach to drugs on campus, please check out Students for a Sensible Drug Policy, we’re a cool bunch.