Pot use on campus: the main reason why Colby loves `dillas

Due to the sensitivity of this topic, names have been changed to protect the identities of contributors.

To comply with federal policies, Colby College does not allow  marijuana use on campus. In a world where attitudes toward the drug are swiftly changing, students have a different mindset.

On most Saturday nights, the Spa is a hub for Colby students of varying levels of intoxication. On many occasions, it’s also been home to students with severe cases of the munchies.

Hannah `21 spent one of her first Saturday nights at Colby staring intently at a quesadilla in the Spa. She had a frozen expression of unmitigated confusion, barely spoke, and inhaled more spa food than a football offensive lineman. When a concerned acquaintance stopped by to ask how Hannah was doing, a friend confided quietly, “She’s never been stoned before…she’s not doing so great.”

“I didn’t mean to get high that night,” Hannah later explained. “I’d never gotten high before, and it was a complete accident—mostly secondhand. I was very freaked out, but I’ve had better experiences since.”

Despite marijuana’s statewide legalization, colleges and universities throughout Maine have been re-emphasizing policies that prohibit marijuana on campuses, regardless of its new legal status elsewhere for those 21 years of age.

Far from an attempt to prevent their students from having a good time, it’s likely that colleges are continuing to ban the drug in an effort to stay in the good graces of one particular source of their funds: the federal government. In order to qualify for billions of dollars in federal financial aid and research grants, colleges must certify that they comply with Title IV of the federal Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act. That certification requires schools to adopt and disseminate “standards of conduct that clearly prohibit, at a minimum, the unlawful possession, use, or distribution of illicit drugs and alcohol by students and employees on its property or as part of any of its activities.” Schools in other states that have legalized recreational use of marijuana have stood by similar policies.

There’s a tinge of irony to this dogma, particularly in the state of Maine. A majority of voters in nearly all of the communities that host colleges or universities in Maine – Portland, Orono, Brunswick, Farmington, Waterville, Bar Harbor, Biddeford and Bangor – voted heavily in favor of legalization, despite the fact that the margin of difference statewide was just 3,995 votes.

It’s clear that the younger generation is driving this change in policy. But as long as Colby faces consequences from federal authorities, students will have to keep their marijuana use behind closed doors or face consequences themselves.

Violation of the drug policy at Colby results in disciplinary actions that may range from probation, fines, and/or loss of housing up to suspension or expulsion. The first offense for possession of marijuana only leads  to a warning and a fine, while intent to sell or distribute warrants suspension.

Despite these potential consequences, there often seems to be a more widespread disregard for the “smoke-free campus” policies than for Colby’s alcohol policies. At 12:30 on a Saturday in October, outside the entrance to the apartments (prime time and location for security to begin their descent on Colby’s party scene), it’s not unusual to see students gathered to smoke a joint. “We were smoking there one night,” said Hannah “and one of us said ‘weed’ a little loudly. Two guys passing by said, ‘You want weed? We have some.’”

Although Hannah declined the offer, her story provides a good example of the ease with which students seem to be able to acquire the drug, and the relaxed nature of Security in enforcing Colby’s policies.

As exhibited by Security’s policies regarding alcohol, their primary concern is the imminent safety of Colby students. Security is unlikely to get involved unless students are being belligerent or need medical attention, so it’s possible that enforcement of the no-smoking policy at Colby seems relaxed because marijuana neither makes its users belligerent, nor sends them to the hospital. “Weed doesn’t make you obnoxious. Alcohol is so much worse. I’ve talked to security about it, and they care much less as well,” adds Hannah.

Allison, `20, cites a time she was caught smoking a joint by Johnson Pond. “He basically told us to go home. Security cares about safety. They let us make our own decisions, and it would be damn rude if they didn’t,” she laughs.

However, despite a perceived lack of consequences, marijuana is still a prohibited substance, not only at Colby, but throughout the country. Because of its legal status, it’s subject to a unique code of conduct clearly visible among Colby students.

“You can go to Security and say, ‘some guy stole my bicycle, here he is, go get him,’” says Andrew, an avid smoker and up-and-coming dealer on campus (“hopefully,” he qualifies). “You can’t tell security someone stole your weed. So there are informal sanctions. Smokers tend to have a really high social and ethical standard.”

Due to Colby’s size, dealers and buyers alike pay extra caution when interacting with one another. “You can ruin the people you buy from, or ruin the people who buy from you. A story gets around quickly on this campus, and there aren’t enough people to replace lost clients or repair a reputation,” said Emmanuel, ‘21, another Colby student familiar with the drug landscape of the college.

Andrew offered deeper insight into additional business strategies, including his stance against the practice of  “friendly” pricing. “If you discount for anything other than bulk, you won’t be in business for long,” he said. “It’s almost as bad as getting high on your own supply.” Andrew also alluded to the male-dominated nature of the drug field in general, and pointed towards the severe inequalities innate within it. “My dealer has started bringing her boyfriend on runs. It makes it easier for her,” he explained. “Guys will harass her, or won’t respect her prices.”

Nevertheless, Andrew was able to ultimately concludedthat the dealer-buyer relationship is a common one that truly does not live up to its scandalous reputation. “When your dealer lives down the hall, and most faces are familiar faces, exclusivity doesn’t really work,” he expressed.  “We aren’t in the big wide world of drugs here, nobody’s trying to cheat you. We all just want to smoke.”