Marijuana, mary-jane, pot, weed–the name has changed over the years, and so has the potency of the substance itself. On Albion College’s campus, the number of students caught with it has also changed.
In the past academic year, the number of students charged with violating the Student Handbook illegal drug use code doubled from seven to 14, according to Ken Snyder, director of Campus Safety.
According to Snyder, the first factor in the rise of students caught and complaints is due to a stronger smell than years past of the marijuana– both burned and unburned, this is what caught Snyder’s attention.
“I opened a box of unburnt marijuana last week and I got a headache just from the smell,” Snyder said. “In 25 years that has never happened.”
The other reason for this increase is repeat users, Snyder said.
“There could be two or three more chronic users which cause the majority of complaints by the R.A.’s or other students,” Snyder said.
The punishment for being caught with marijuana is suspension for a semester, and the student would have to re-apply to the school after that semester. The punishment for dealing marijuana is expulsion from the school, Snyder said.
There have been no reported incidences of drug dealing this year, but in the past there have been a few, Snyder said. Campus Safety can tell if the student is a dealer by factors including a significant amount of cash, drugs that are individually packaged, packaging materials like baggies, scales and/or other items used to measure or divide drugs, witness statements and a ledger.
The more potent odor is what caught Snyder’s interest. Snyder, a former law officer, attended a national drug convention a few years back. He recalled the speaker saying, “This isn’t your father’s marijuana.”
First-year Bob, who preferred to go only by his first name, agreed with Snyder’s anecdote.
“I smoke with my dad every time I go home,” Bob said. “He used to smoke in college, but he’s still trying to get used to my stuff. The first time I gave it to him, it knocked him off his feet.”
Snyder believed that the stronger smell is due to increased potency. He believed that since there are more commercial growers (medical marijuana), there is more manipulation of the THC level, the main active chemical in marijuana. THC is short for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol.
It’s not just speculation–potency has increased over the years. According to a report released by National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy , the THC strength is increasing.
“Today, marijuana is more potent than ever before and may be leading to an increase in teen marijuana treatment admissions and a rise in the number of emergency room episodes related to the drug,” said a 2007 White House Drug Policy report that quoted this NIDA statement.
This report stated that the average amount of THC is seized samples have reached 8.5 percent. In 1983 the THC level was just under four percent.
Though the numbers of drug violations have increased, Snyder said that Campus Safety has not changed its policing schedule this year, and they have no current plans to do so next year.
“Our job is to respond to complaints; this is an education prevention issue,” Snyder said. “I think that this should be dealt with by Student Affairs (as a whole, which includes Campus Safety, Residential Life, Counseling, Student Health Services, CPO, ICA, the Chaplain’s office, and the Dean of Students).”
Sally Walker, dean of Student Affairs, continues to expect students to adhere to college policies and local, state, and federal law regarding the illegal use of drugs.
“Student Affairs is working to more fully understand the increase in complaints and judicial cases,” Walker said. “In addition, Student Affairs is assessing how to continually improve outreach efforts. For example, students in need of interventions should be aware of assistance programs.”