By Abby Wargo
Washington College has seen an increase in Controlled Dangerous Substances violations this year.
Controlled dangerous substances, according to Director of the Department of Public Safety Gerald Roderick, is a broad term for drugs that are deemed illegal or are prescription-controlled.
Roderick said that Public Safety has been receiving an increasing amount of reports of marijuana on campus.
“Public Safety has been getting reports to go out and investigate because people in residence halls are smelling what they believe to be burnt marijuana in the vicinity of their rooms,” he said.
Not all of the cases reported are marijuana usage; incense burning, for example, can be mistaken for drug misuse. Other times, Public Safety can detect the scent of marijuana, but the perpetrators have already left the area.
“It’s a pretty pungent odor; it tends to stay around. If people are smoking very pungent marijuana and they come into a building with the smell still stuck to their clothes, sometimes that can leave a residual smell in the building where somebody thinks there’s marijuana usage in the building,” Roderick said.
He said that marijuana use on campus has been “on the rise” recently.
“The climate in the country today on marijuana use has shifted pretty dramatically from what it was five years ago, so I think there’s a general sense with our student population that it’s really not a crime anymore,” Roderick said.
The state of Maryland has lessened the penalties for marijuana use and is “exploring” medical marijuana use, but recreational use is still illegal, according to Roderick. Lessening the penalties allows marijuana violation court cases to be classified as civil offenses rather than criminal arrests.
“In one regard, I think it’s a very wise decision that the government made to go this route because we don’t need to continue to put people in jail for these minor offenses and ruin their lives,” he said. “But the downside of that is, the population that is using marijuana interprets that to mean that it’s OK, that it’s legal. There’s still a lot of education that needs to be done in that regard.”
Many offices at WC, including Health Services, the Wellness Office, and Student Affairs, in addition to Public Safety, are working together to figure out how to better address the issue on campus.
Roderick said there are a few things of which students who are using or misusing drugs should be aware.
“If you’re on financial aid, and you get arrested for drug use, you will lose your financial aid. If you are arrested and convicted on drug charges, you are no longer eligible for financial aid,” he said.
For students attending WC on a visa, an arrest could also lead to the termination of that student’s visa, forcing them to leave the country.
More immediate concerns following a drug use violation could be an Honor Board hearing, which can result in suspension or expulsion.
“The school still has a policy on drug use, and the school has not changed its policy. It still takes a pretty tough stance on drug use,” he said.
Arrests or violations don’t just lead to repercussions with the College.
“If you get arrested for a drug charge, that stays on your record and seriously handicaps you when you go into the job market,” Roderick said.
A drug charge could make it more difficult to get a job amidst stiff competition, and is easy for employers to look up.
Although Roderick understands that college can be an “experimental time” for students, “I just want everybody to do it with the knowledge and information as to what the ramifications are. To just throw caution to the wind and be careless about what you’re doing probably won’t end up working out too well,” he said.