Now that New Jersey has taken steps to legalize marijuana, there is a proper procedure the state should take to integrate the drug on college campuses. This should include educational and transparent conversations behind the use of the drug in the college community.
Since there will be recreational sales, the College should take action to prevent the same mistakes of the war on drugs. The comprehensive policy which the College, campus police, and local police departments are putting together should take into consideration the flaws in the justice system hiding behind possession charges of minorities which NJ is historically known for.
According to APP, as recently as 2016, the arrest of marijuana users in NJ was amongst the highest nationwide. Although 13 percent of New Jersey’s population was African American, the black community made up 36 percent of the state’s possession arrests. Marjiuana charges statewide made up 10.6 percent of all arrests. This is why the legalisation of the drug that is historically misunderstood accounts for a significant percentage of all arrests proves to be a shift for local police departments.
An NJ.com opinion piece put it this way; marijuana related arrests kept police officers their jobs in New Jersey. A significant change is coming to citizens of New Jersey, police officers included.
The state’s notorious mishandling of mariijuana in the past still shows its effects in dozens of municipalities. On behalf of the inability to reliably inform the public in the past on the effects of marijuana, two NJ communities who lean red are trying to make their municipalities ban the use of weed legally. According to NJ.com, dozens of NJ communities are now banning weed dispensaries, effectively removing themselves from the approval of the weed industry.
Just how far does the criminalization of cannabis go in the state of NJ?
As far back as the Nixon presidency, the 1970 Controlled Substances Act classified marijuana as just as potentially dangerous and addictive as heroin according to Civilized.
Anti-cannabis rhetoric was used by Gov. Christie, who called the substance “poison” and attempted to make medicinal marijuana less available in the state.
Under Gov. Murphy’s plan to decriminalize cannabis, there are many unknowns surrounding the situation’s timeline. However, the legality stands as such: the possession of six ounces or less is decriminalized for those 21 and older, but drug distribution and growing without a license remains punishable.
As the law reaches the College, community standards should be taken into consideration. The new legislation should be clearly translated to students in order to prevent the same mistakes that have historically been placed on minorities for marijuana use in New Jersey.
This line being blurred between what is legal and what is punishable should be something the College takes into consideration after the announcement of Justice Grown, a dispensary coming to Ewing.
As far as we know so far , plans are being devised long term between local departments and the College, and in the meantime an interim policy has been put in place. Although the interim policy does not allow campus police to conduct a search based on smell, the College’s future policy on weed related punishments would likely be a protocol separate from the new law according to Campus Police.
Since the new policy has not been released, in my opinion, The College should take into account the marijuana legislation and prepare guidelines answering these three questions to promote transparency amongst students and administration:
If a student is found with weed by local or campus police what will be the College’s punishment?
Will the College designate areas on campus for students 21 and older to smoke? If so, where?
What is the College’s policy going to say regarding marijuana use medicinally and legally on campus?
Under the law, if caught with weed under the age of 21 you are given up to three written warnings. Upon the third written warning is a referral to “community-based support” according to this NJ legal statement.
As of right now, the College’s policy prohibits smoking tobacco related substances including electronic devices in resident halls and at least ten feet away from any building entrance.
However, the current classification of marijuana use or possession at the College puts students at risk of being referred to the student conduct process.
To prevent this in the future, The College could adopt the new law, and allow students of age to smoke weed on campus on similar terms of tobacco.
Since marijuana is legalized for those over 21, the College should designate outdoor campus areas for students over 21 to smoke safely. One of the mistakes that can be made is not allowing students within the confines of the law to smoke.
This in contrast with social acceptability around student alcohol use and the ability to legally drink on campus would create confusion on the legality of marijuana amongst students.
I propose at the very least one safe and secure environment for students of age who choose to smoke the accommodation and ability to smoke marijuana in the pavilion and grassy knoll outside of the senior housing buildings behind Phelps and Hausdoerffer.
This building’s location directly across from the Campus Police station would promote safety and a better relationship between students and Campus Police. Since there is a main road I suggest a fence to be built (tcnj.edu).
To realize the truth about marijuana legalization and how this will drastically change the culture of college-aged students, The College should look at the scientific backing and popularity behind the drug in recent years.
The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics found that 72% of Americans believe alcohol to be more dangerous than cannabis. The rise in this statistic is backed by the CDC who have discovered the substance to be medicinal for certain health problems.
Trends in NCDAS statistics from 2017 stated that 24% percent of highschool seniors that year had tried weed compared to 45% of American adults who smoked at least once. This shows that the already growing cannabis culture will grow exponentially within the legalization process.
Because of this data in combination with the legalization of pot, the policy being developed should open a more outward relationship between administration and student drug and alcohol use based on the failure of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE).
This transparency in terms of a set of guidelines and conversation similar to what students witness with alcohol is the very least the College could do. If they do decide to ban the substance on campus, this will create more potential incidents of student crime. This in combination with a lackluster understanding of drugs culturally creates a situation based around fear and prejudice.
To not promote honest discussion on marijuana use would be to let the same problems be caused by the state’s historic problem and the DARE program.
Based on these failures to educate, the College should prepare to deal with marijuana use both legally and illegally in a constructive way.
The College along with the Alcohol and Drug Education program (ADEP) should consider the rise in popularity of marijuana and aim to educate students on drug addiction to avoid making the same mistakes historically damaging the lives of many in our state, over the decades of the war on drugs, the outright inflation of drug possession charges used against minorities, and the failed DARE program.