UNA officials: Marijuana use on campus ‘concerning’

University crime logs indicate 20 cases of marijuana use or possession occurred on campus since January 2015.

Of the 20 marijuana related cases, 18 involved students in possession, and two involved students smoking marijuana.

“I’m not going to use the word ‘alarming,’ but I am concerned that there’s that much used on campus,” said Deputy Chief of Police Mark Parker.

He said marijuana use on campus has been consistent since he started working for UNA.

“After a student is caught on campus with the possession of marijuana, there will be determinations made on whether to charge that person criminally or allow the student conduct board to take care of the issue,” Parker said. “We do use the student conduct board quite a bit because we run into a lot of cases that are very small and that we feel like can be best handled through the student conduct board.”

Parker said the most common place officers catch students with the drug is around the residence halls.

In the residence halls, there is a no tolerance policy on drugs, said Director of Student Conduct Kim Greenway.

“Even if there is a seed or baggy that had marijuana in it, or a paraphernalia, you are generally, if found responsible for that, removed from the halls,” Greenway said.

Parker said the police department follows the proper procedure for any type of search.

“We have to have probable cause and reasonable suspicion,” he said. “We have to follow proper court gear, guidelines and rulings from the Supreme Court, and all the way down, as to how we can approach a case like that.”

Parker said all of the officers undergo regular training and updates on search and seizure and are familiar with the policies that they can follow. However, officers cannot conduct every search due to legal rights.

“For example, if we walk up on a car and there is a strong smell of burnt marijuana coming out of the vehicle, than that’s (reasonable grounds for making a search),” Parker said. “However, the probable cause to search there may not lead us to everything we need to know about it. We may have to back up because of Fourth Amendment rules.”

The Fourth Amendment protects Americans from unreasonable searches unless there is probable cause for search.

Even though marijuana possession and usage are felony offenses, UNA deals with the offense from an educational standpoint, Greenway said.

Charged students must face the Student Conduct Board for discipline and education. The board is made of students, faculty and staff members, Greenway said.

“Our goal in it is to find out how we can educate that student to make better decisions in the future,” Greenway said.

Depending on the circumstances, rulings vary, she said.

“It depends on lot of things,” Greenway said. “It’s case-by-case, but we try to be consistent with sanctioning across the board. If they have a low level amount of marijuana, suspension is not our first option.”

She said often the board does research on state laws and how (drugs) affect students. The board also does an exercise where they ask the student where the student sees marijuana in his or her life five years from now.

“We want to educate that student,” Greenway said.

She does not support recreational use of marijuana, but believes in legalizing it for medical use, said senior Elana Rebholz.

“I think that medical marijuana should be legalized in all states for those with severe conditions where they are in pain every day, hospice patients or elderly folks,” Rebholz said.