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Marijuana and College Campuses

March 17, 2014

Many of my patients are now on college campuses throughout the country.  Certainly, as a freshman, they are almost always living in a dormitory; unless they attend a commuter college.

I have learned through feedback from college students that there is a subject that needs our attention as parents so we can better prepare our kids; smoking marijuana in the dorm.  Now, you noticed I said “in the dorm.”  Smoking, possessing, paraphernalia may pose different punishments if they are caught in the city off campus or even on campus outside the dorms.  Of course, this will vary from state to state and their respective laws;  but,  because most students are below 21 years of age, it would still be considered illegal.

Here, I’d like to focus on “the dorm” issue.  I know this will vary with the region of the country,  whether you are in a state school or private. Where I went to undergrad in a very small private New England college drug use and experimentation was a non issue; the college didn’t care as long as you didn’t burn down the building.  NO ONE was reprimanded or punished for such action. However, in large state supported schools there seems to be a no nonsense policy that if caught smoking in the dorm, them your right to reside in any of the dorms either that year or for the remaining time you are at the college is taken away. You are left with finding your own living space off the campus grounds. That may not pose a problem for the upperclassmen and women since they would probably welcome the idea and parents would relish in the cost savings.  It does pose a problem for freshmen who generally don’t have cars and can’t legally sign for rental cars and apartment leases. This is where the parents are brought in for the added costs and inconvenience of providing alternate living space falls on our shoulders.

I guess the philosophy is that if a student uses drugs in the dorm that such behavior may ”infect” or affect other students and possibly convert them into “druggies.” Generally college campuses don’t expose such behavior to the local police; they would rather handle the issue internally. Alcohol (equally illegal for those under 21) is handled differently. There usually is a “three strikes you’re out” policy for alcohol possession so it gives a little more allowance.  It would seem to me that drugs use should be handled in the same way since young students will make mistakes in their judgment. I would think since accepting the student in the first place that the school would have an investment in their students and give them warnings prior to being put in the “slammer.”

Here’s where the real problem lies: The issue of alcohol and drug use almost always is in any given school’s handbook regarding code of conduct. It is discussed (sometimes lightly) by Sophomore RA’s and not anyone of adult authority. Since the penalties can be grave, you would think that all students during freshman orientation be given a clear warning BY AN ADULT in charge of student housing.

So, what do you do? ……..   Kids on campus WILL take risk and use poor judgment with alcohol or drugs. It is unreal for a parent to tell their freshman son or daughter to “don’t do drugs or alcohol” and believe that will “stick.”  So my advice would be “If you must indulge, DON’T DO IT IN THE DORM!!”   “I can’t afford to pay for your dorm room AND an apartment.”

For any parent attending orientation for their child in college, I think it would be very important for you to clearly understand the school’s policy and have it in writing including the right for appeal process. It would be very valuable for you the parents and your child to talk to upperclassmen about this subject as well.


Dr. “D.”   

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