I'm starting college and am pretty excited about the fact that I'll have more freedom to enjoy cannabis. However, I'm also a bit worried about getting in trouble with my school. Can RAs or campus police actually arrest me if they find my stash?! Is there any good way to enjoy cannabis on campus without getting in trouble?
— Freshman Smoker
For many, college is a time to spread those wings and fly, so I definitely understand the feeling of freedom, particularly when it comes to cannabis. You're on your own for the first time, so it can be tempting to live life by your rules, consequences be damned. As the cannabis reporter David Bienenstock wrote in his amazing book How to Smoke Pot (Properly), "There's a time and a place for gravity bongs, and it's called college." At the same time, college can also be an excellent place to hone the skills needed to be a responsible cannabis user!
The first thing you will want to look into is your school's drug and alcohol policy. Every school has them, regardless of how strict or lenient the institution is about it. For instance, some schools (like Stanford) may allow students who are over 21 to drink on campus, and others (like this college in Arizona) have legalized medical marijuana on school grounds. On the other hand, schools like Utah's Brigham Young have incredibly rigid rules that forbid not only alcohol and illegal drugs, but caffeine and tobacco as well!
Universities in states where cannabis is still illegal will follow state law, so familiarize yourself with those, especially if you are going to college out of state. Not every state has similar penalties and consequences for cannabis, so it's important to study up on the state you'll be in. However, don't think that you're scot-free if you go to college in a weed-friendly state. Many schools forbid recreational cannabis use and are also very strict when it comes to medical cannabis, so, unfortunately, there may not be a legal way to enjoy a joint at the end of a long week of classes and studying. One main reason is that a lot of schools receive federal funding, and with cannabis still illegal on the federal level, they could jeopardize incoming money if they made changes to their campus drug policies.
So what's a college kid to do?
My first suggestion would be to connect with some like-minded students. Perhaps that means walking through your dorm and making friends with the kid whose room smells super dank and has The Grateful Dead on a perpetual loop. You want to make sure you find reliable, safe, and friendly folks to get your cannabis from. At the same time, start refining your role as a responsible cannabis user. That means not smoking in the dorm hallways where the smell and smoke can get into the rooms of folks who aren't interested in the herb. It also means getting to know your roommate and finding out where they stand on cannabis. If they're cool with you toking up in your room — awesome! If not, you need to respect their wishes. After all, the goal is to enjoy cannabis safely and responsibly, and you can't do that if your roomie is complaining about you to your Resident Assistant (RA).
However, if your roommate is a fan of the herb, you're still not fully in the clear. Make sure to take care when you do smoke — keep your dorm window opened to allow for airflow, don't leave your bongs out in the open, and do your best not to call attention to yourself. While most RAs will look the other way if you're keeping things chill and not out in the open, you don't want to push your luck. That means no dealing or growing in your room! And maybe you should consider investing in a vape for discrete smoking.
Also, even if your RA is chill, you're still beholden to the rules of your school, so make sure you know exactly what you're in for. Will they just confiscate your stash and give you a warning? Is there a zero tolerance policy and even the risk of expulsion? Find out before lighting that bowl so you can make an educated risk/benefit analysis!
If you get inspired to work toward some change, why not visit your school's chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy? And if your school doesn't have one, think about starting one! Who knows? Maybe as you learn more and delve into the cannabis scene, it may end up being a potential career option. That is partially what college is about, after all.
Of course, it's also about passing joints around in a shared bathroom while waxing poetic on Carl Sagan. Here's to you, dorm room philosophers! And here's to an enriching college experience overall — toke up!