Citations for marijuana on the climb

Steve Bushong

Police have cited 13 people, mostly students, for possession of marijuana this semester, up from six at this time last year, according to police records. PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY GAVIN JACKSON | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Steve Schirra

***Correction: An earlier version of this story omitted three paragraphs. The error occurred in the Web uploading process.***

Its smell is unmistakable — a pungent confection of dirty gym clothes, fallen leaves and exhaust from a diesel engine.

This year, Kent State police have been encountering the distinctive smell of marijuana more frequently than in the past.

Police have cited 13 people, mostly students, for possession of marijuana this semester, up from six at this time last year, according to police records.

Detective Carl Sweigert isn’t sure where the increase in numbers is coming from.

“Does it mean we’re out there looking for more and finding it, or does it mean there’s more going on? We don’t know the answer,” Sweigert said.

Kent Police Lt. Michelle Lee doesn’t believe there has been a significant increase in marijuana citations in the city, which could correlate with rising marijuana citations on campus.

“If more (marijuana) were being brought into the city, it’s probably going to end up in student’s hands, whether on campus or not,” Lee said.

Official statistics for recent citations in Kent will not be available for a couple weeks.

Andrew Pitrone, freshman visual communication design major, said the increase in citations could be the result of relaxed attitudes towards marijuana.

“It seems widely accepted, except with authority,” he said. “It’s so relaxed, people don’t see the problem.”

Sweigert said a spike in marijuana-related citations are normal at the beginning of the semester. New students aren’t familiar with the policies in the residence halls, and when they realize smoking is strictly prohibited there, they go looking for covert locations outside.

“They think, ‘There’s this isolated patch of woods over by the Liquid Crystal Institute, I bet no one has smoked over there,'” Sweigert said.

One student said every time he walks by he woods he smells marijuana smoke — something that police are well aware of.

Sweigert said between the bike and foot patrols, people are destined to get caught. Students cited for marijuana possession face an array of sanctions.

A police citation lands an offender a date in municipal court, as well as a white slip, which is an invitation to the Office of Judicial Affairs.

“It’s against the law, and we don’t have any other choice but to take care of it judicially,” said Dean of Students Greg Jarvie. “We take a hard stance on drugs.”

For a first offense, a student will receive a year of probation, with the expectation he won’t break the law again. But a second offense can result in suspension from the university, Jarvie said.

In addition, students must report any drug offense on their FASFA forms, which could exclude them from government financial aid, said Mark Evans, student financial aid director.

The same sanctions apply to those cited for possession of drug paraphernalia. Police have cited nine people for the offense this semester. By this time last year, they had cited only three.

Fifty-seven percent of students have tried marijuana at some point in their lives. 17 percent of students had used marijuana in the past month, according to the latest university alcohol and drug survey.

Those results, from a 2004 survey, show improvement over the 2003 survey, in which 23 percent of students had used marijuana in the last 30 days.

Contact safety reporter Steve Bushong at [email protected].