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Marijuana odors in dorms under scrutiny, University investigates

Published: Monday, February 25, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 10:09

Although recent crime logs have suggested that the university has a strong marijuana presence, Captain Bernie Merrick said that is not the case.

Most marijuana odor investigations turn out to be false, but the Office of Campus Life, the Office of Judicial Affairs and Public Safety still continue to investigate these matters in order to enforce the laws of the university and state.

“We’ve gotten calls for what someone thought was a smell of marijuana,” said Merrick in his office on Thursday in Frontier Hall. “Officers or Campus Life arrived and didn’t smell anything, or it was something else.”

According to Merrick, once he reads the incident reports attached to the reported crimes he realizes that people sometimes mistake the odors.

Merrick said students are “generally cooperative” when they are caught with drugs of any kind.

When a call is usually made to campus police about a marijuana odor their first priority is to find the smell and work from there.

“We don’t want to be intrusive,” Merrick said. “If we can’t isolate it [the smell], we can’t go into every room on a floor looking for a source.”

If campus police are able to locate the smell, they have the right to enter a student’s room with the help of the Campus Life staff.

“We respond with Campus Life, and we make contact with people in the room,” said Merrick. “We interview them and a room search can be conducted by Campus Life.”

Students who are caught are turned over to Judicial Affairs where they are given their punishment or fine based on the offense, according to Merrick.

Judicial Affairs enforces the laws and rules of the university’s Student Code of Conduct. When students disobey or break these policies they are faced with serious repercussions.

“A student may be required to meet with the Coordinator of Alcohol and Other Drug Education, the university mental health counselor or be assessed for addiction. After the meeting, an activity will be assigned to the student based on the needs of the student and the incident,” according to the Judicial Standards and Processes link on Point Park’s website.

Students are also fined based on their offense. The fine for a first time offense for a student caught with drugs is $75. A second offense is a fine of $125. The fines are all donated to the Alcohol and Drug program.

The Alcohol and Drug educator failed to answer questions regarding the topic of her position in the whole process.

Two students, a male and female who chose to remain anonymous because of the subject matter, shared their feelings on marijuana legalization and drugs on campus.

“I feel that marijuana should be legalized for recreational use and medicinal use globally because there are a lot of benefits that you can reap from marijuana growth, sale, production and manufacturing,” said the male student in Lawrence Hall on Monday. “You could bring a lot of money into the nation by legalizing marijuana.”

The male student spoke about the possible benefits of Point Park being a marijuana-friendly university.

“It would be fantastic if Point Park was a marijuana-friendly campus because I feel that a lot of the artsy students would be able to smoke to give themselves maybe more creative motivation for their dancing, artwork and photography,” the male student said.

 “I think the people that don’t smoke don’t really care about the people that do smoke [on campus],” the female student said.

Daylin Leach recently proposed in Pennsylvania the Senate Bill 528, which will legalize marijuana for people 21 years of age and older. The purpose of the legalization is to bring money into the state by taxing it.

“Leach has been vocal about the benefits Pennsylvanians could reap by legalizing marijuana, most notably by bringing in much-needed tax revenue, providing a legal treatment alternative to patients suffering from terminal illness and finally ending a prohibition on a natural substance that causes no harm and cannot become the source of an addiction,” according to a press release on the state senator’s website.

 “If any laws change, if that [marijuana] was to be legalized, we could review it with the administration,” said Merrick. “The administration would put policies together on how to address the situation.”

Merrick used the example of how the university has a policy for alcohol for students over the age of 21.

The anonymous male student shared his opinion on the legalization of marijuana.

“Obviously I understand because it’s a federal law that class one and class A drugs are illegal,” said the male student. “It’s standard to see that. You are not allowed to have drugs in high school - you’re not allowed to have drugs on campus. If they would legalize it for 21 and over I wouldn’t see a problem with that at all.”

Leach’s press release stated, “Under the terms of Leach’s bill, marijuana would be a regulated product, treated similarly to alcohol. He noted that his bill would not change current laws against driving under the influence of marijuana, selling marijuana to minors and disorderly conduct while publicly intoxicated.”

Merrick wants people to know that the university takes situations involving drugs very seriously. He stressed that Public Safety along with other departments on campus know that students do drugs, but they do not want them to do it.

“It’s a function of several departments [Public Safety, Campus Life and Student Health Center] to educate students on safe practices and not to violate the law,” Merrick said.

Although the university does not influence drug use, the male student shared his opinion on why it is OK for students to use drugs.

 “If students are able to keep their priorities straight then it’s not, you know, saying to legalize marijuana and go out there and smoke every single day of your life,” said the male student. “You still have your priorities. You still have to be able to function. I say if you can pass your classes and you can get good grades and still smoke the reefer, it’s your decision.”

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