Pot Culture on Campus: community maker or breaker?

While marijuana possession and use is against the Student Code of Conduct, some Pacific Lutheran University students still partake in the drug. However, students are not united in their opinion of the drug and its effect on the campus community.

In the sunshine of Easter Sunday, some Lutes gathered on campus to celebrate another type of holiday — 4/20. With an array of doughnuts, Cheez-Its and Gatorade, the group of about six students played songs on a guitar and talked.

None of the students were smoking marijuana on campus, and they said they were not high. Some did say they had smoked earlier in the day, however, and planned to later. Names of the student marijuana smokers are altered to protect their privacy.

Karl, a sophomore who has been smoking since he was 15-years-old, said 4/20 is a day to smoke and have a good time but that it could be more.

“Especially now that marijuana is legal [in Washington state],” Karl said while snacking on Chex-Mix. “I think that it’s time for us to instead start thinking about how we can use this day for deviance as a way to encourage social changes.”

Sophomore Pierre, who has been smoking since age 12, said he wasn’t sure about the history of 4/20, but said, “It’s like a holiday for stoners.” He said Karl invited him to join the others, and he came to eat food and play the guitar.

None of the students said they were protesting federal laws or Pacific Lutheran University policies against marijuana, but some did say they didn’t agree with anti-marijuana policies.

“I think it’s absolutely ridiculous,” Karl said of the federal government’s laws against pot. “I mean, they group marijuana in with cocaine and heroine. And it’s just preventing forward movement.”

Pierre said the federal laws were complicated, but that he didn’t think it was much of a cause for concern.

“I can kind of understand why they want to outlaw it, because it’s a drug, and it just makes sense I guess,” Pierre said. “I’m pretty impartial to it.”

Despite Washington’s legalization of the drug, PLU holds to the federal law that still prohibits the possession or use of marijuana, Ray Lader, the associate director of Student Rights and Responsibilities, said. This rule extends off campus as well, Lader said, because the Student Code of Conduct still applies off campus, the goal being to encourage students to be good citizens at all times.

More details on the regulation of marijuana at PLU are available in the front page story of the April 4 issue of The Mooring Mast, “Lutes still can’t light up, despite pot legalization.” It is also available online.

While Campus Safety officers have been investigating alleged marijuana uses about a couple of times per week this year on campus, as seen in The Mast’s weekly feature ‘Crime Time,’ Greg Premo, the director of Campus Safety, said Campus Safety does not investigate off campus.

Cyrus, a first-year who began smoking at age 16, said PLU’s policy inhibits the ability of students to build a community.

“You can make it [marijuana] legal, you can make it available, and it’s not going to be a detriment,” Cyrus said. “But it just seems like PLU’s policy — they’re hypocritical in a way. Because really, I know they’re trying to build community, and it’s [pot is] something that does.”

Pierre, Karl and Cyrus all said the idea that pot disrupts others is unfounded. They agreed that pot smokers should be considerate, but the idea of the smell being a disturbance is exaggerated.

“What if I just smell bad, you know? Is that a disruption to the community?” Pierre asked. “I don’t think so.”

Karl said he has apologized to students in the past for the smell, but they have all told him not to be concerned.

“People don’t really care as much as they would like us to believe,” he said.
Karl said there is no reason for Campus Safety to stop pot smokers, and it would be ridiculous to try.

“To be in my room and to be afraid that I’m going to get in trouble and have to pay fines because I’m feeling good about something, for me, there’s a really big disconnect there,” Karl said.

He also agreed with Cyrus, saying pot is one of the easiest ways to form good ties with people but that making it against the rules threatens those bonds.

“How does having like four or five Campo [Campus Safety] officers outside your door build community?” Karl asked. “People see that and then they ascribe you a label, and then they start treating you a little differently because of that. The policy ends up breaking community, in this case, more than it builds it.”

Some students who do not use pot disagreed.

Senior Ariel Grob, who lives in a duplex off campus, said some PLU students she knows will gather in a field near her residence to smoke.

“I feel it creates a community of laziness and ‘we can say whatever stupid things we want to, cause we’re high,’” Grob said. “Generally speaking, I associate pot smokers with laziness and people just wanting to escape the real world a bit.”

Grob said she can smell the marijuana from her house, and it’s not her favorite.

“It kind of smells like a hippy who wears patchouli who also has a cat and has forgotten to wash their clothes for a month,” Grob said.

Junior Taylor Lunka said if people want to do pot, that’s fine.

“But for me personally, I think it creates a negative community, especially in an academic zone,” Lunka said. “We are here to study, we are in college and it kind of detracts from the learning environment that PLU creates.”

Lunka also said she appreciates how clean the air smells at PLU compared to off campus because of the policy against both marijuana and tobacco.

Junior Christina Erickson said she would rather not be around pot and that it could actually be harmful to some students.

“For me it was kind of stressful,” Erickson said. “One, because I don’t like the smell in the first place — it’s really nauseating for me. And two, I have asthma, so being in that environment made it hard to breathe in a way.”

Regardless of student opinion, Lader said PLU will not condone pot.

“We can’t do it under federal guidelines, period,” Lader said.

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