Marijuana usage on Augustana’s campus will remain a pipe dream


Photo illustration featuring vaping, a legal activity, by Brady Johnson.

Brady Johnson

When students 21 of age come back to Rock Island in January, they can smoke marijuana without fear of the law, except when it comes to Augie’s campus. The DEA categorizes drugs into schedules of being dangerous for consumption, and marijuana is still among those at the top. The DEA’s reasoning for such categorization is “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Yet, not everyone in America sees marijuana as a destructive drug.

Some college students use marijuana as a way to relieve stress, which comes from academics, work and other personal issues.

“You can’t overdose on marijuana,” Harris Dibek, sophomore, said. “When it comes to alcohol, you have a hangover the next morning. You feel like crap, and with marijuana you don’t have lingering feelings. That’s why most people try it.”

Dibek approves of the recent legalization but thinks it came too late for Illinois to fully benefit. College student dealers in America frequently purchase marijuana from legal states, because the weed is regulated and the packaging says where the drug comes from, along with information on the strain of cannabis.

Some college students in Illinois have been breaking the law by consuming marijuana, but with the recreational legalization coming in January, many colleges now have to update their policies.

Dr. Wes Brooks, dean of students, is planning on releasing a memo to all students and staff before the term ends to inform  the community about Augie’s response to the legalization. The college will not condone the use or possession of marijuana on campus.

“The January 1, 2020, marijuana policy in Illinois is changing virtually nothing in relationship in how the college is responding to marijuana,” Brooks said. “So as an institution, receiving federal funding and federal grants, we believe that upholding the expectation that marijuana and other controlled substances is not allowed on campus is actually essential for us to carry out our mission as Augustana college. I think that is an important part of our message in relationship to how we handle marijuana and other controlled substances today, on Nov. 18, ultimately will be the same.”

Brooks cites The Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988, which says “some federal contractors and all federal grantees to agree that they will provide drug-free workplaces as a precondition of receiving a contract or grant from a Federal agency.” The Drug-Free Schools and Community Act Amendments of 1989 uses the same notion of withholding funds for schools that don’t follow their rules.  These regulations on the college make it where Augustana cannot join in on The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act.

For many college student dealers, the selling of marijuana provides extra income to pay for tuition and housing. In Illinois, the sale of recreational marijuana has been off-the-books up to this point. So, people buy cannabis from the  “black market,” which is used as an example for any illegal sales, but for college student dealers, it’s the easiest way to build up a financial safety net.

Senior Monica Wong and juniors Nora Brown and Alison Ng are working on a public health communication project this term that aims to inform potential users of the effects marijuana could bring to our biological and psychological processes.

“I cannot necessarily speak for the group, but I can say that I wanted to cover marijuana for a couple of different reasons,” Brown said. “First, I know that drugs play a huge role on college campuses, especially Augustana’s campus. So I thought it was important to create a health education program for Augustana College due to the new legalization of marijuana as of [Jan] 1, 2020.  Second, as a psychology major, I am very interested in how drugs affect human behavior.”

Brown is hoping their project can help inform the Augustana community.

“There are many medical benefits to marijuana,” Wong said. “Common medical uses are for chronic pain, muscle spasms, glaucoma, epileptic seizures and anxiety. A concern that the public should take into consideration before smoking is those with compromised immune systems or respiratory sensitivities [who] respond negatively to the smell of marijuana.”

The group is still working on a presentation to show “hypothetical” Augustana stakeholders.

“Our hope is that if people choose to use marijuana, they will use it safely and be informed on what is actually happening when they are consuming it,” Brown said.

Brown mentions the drug is still illegal for a majority of Americans, and because of that, research has been slow.

“A lot of the myths that we know about marijuana come from the war on drugs,” Dibek said. “The terrible thing is that it all comes from racial problems where people knew that minorities used to smoke marijuana more.  Richard Nixon took that into account and pretty much started spewing propaganda that ‘weed is bad for you. It makes you angry and want to kill people.’”

Dibek looks back now on what he calls another way for the government to oppress minorities and finds it painfully humorous that people thought the drug caused homicides. Yet, many people were killed due to selling and possession of the drug, and Dibek hopes that legalization will put a stop to these kinds of injustices.

College students who are 21 can purchase marijuana at licensed businesses, but at the moment only a few can offer recreational marijuana until more licenses can be approved later down the line. With so few locations offering the drug and with the introduction of taxes, many college students could still purchase from the black market. The marijuana in this market is assumed to be cheaper to maintain competition.

Dibek doesn’t think the announcement of an official mairjuana policy will deter students from smoking.

“I think if I had to give an estimate at the bare minimum, 50 percent of people [at Augie] have tried or use it regularly,” Dibek said.

As Augie students smell the whiff of marijuana in residential halls and on the Slough, the act of smoking that many see in movies like National Lampoon and Dazed and Confused has changed. Nowadays many people smoke using “carts”, which is used by many college student dealers in America. The term “carts” refers to cannabis vaping pens and dab pens.

The rise of vape pens allows users to “discreetly” consume marijuana without the fear of being found out. The discussion of vaping goes all the way up to the national stage as many users are falling ill and even dying from the chemicals hiding inside. For the most part, vape pens with THC (or tetrahydrocannabinol) oil are absent from these harmful chemicals found in popular tobacco vapes like Juul. That doesn’t mean vape pens and dab pens can’t be made with harmful chemicals, as many users in America found brands like Dank Vapes, counterfeits of Exotic Vapes and Supreme Vapes to be  linked to harmful consumption of marijuana, coming from the other chemicals used inside. One of the main reasons for legalization is the ability to cut down on these harmful counterfeits.

So as the state law changes, allowing people 21 and older to smoke marijuana, it will continue to be prohibited on campus. The dean of students will send a full memo later this term to spell out the varying degrees of punishment if a student is caught with marijuana on campus.

Photo illustration: Photo illustration featuring vaping, a legal activity, by Brady Johnson.