By Dean Seal
While many are heading out to support the American Cancer Society at Relay for Life Friday, some are choosing to spend their April 20 supporting a different cause – marijuana.
April 20 has earned a stigma in American culture as an underground holiday devoted to the celebration, often through consumption, of marijuana. The designation of April 20 as a cannabis holiday originates from the term “4/20”, a code that typically refers to marijuana or the consumption of marijuana by its users.
Select students commemorate the occasion across the country, specifically in densely populated areas and college campuses, with anything from large-scale observances to more private affairs. For some students, this sentiment is shared.
But, because the possession, growth and distribution of marijuana remain illegal in Virginia, the use of cannabis remains largely hidden on campus. The Division of Student Affairs classifies marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance, marked for its “high potential for abuse” and a “lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.”
The Students for Sensible Drug Policy are working to change the current system with a booth in Squires today.
“We’re an international grassroots group who knows the war on drugs is failing our society and generation,” said Chloe Beemer, president of the SSDP and a sophomore international studies major. “We obviously chose to establish a booth on 4/20 for a reason. We don’t advocate or encourage drug use of any kind, but we’re against the drug war, and we know today there’s a heightened awareness for the subject.”
The group advocates for more reasonable drug policies on campus, actively working towards extending the “Good Samaritan” policy to be more inclusive to drug offenses, instead of just alcohol offenses.
Despite recent revisions in the school’s Zero Tolerance drug policy, wherein violators will be sanctioned with a more individualized approach, students purport that the drug atmosphere on campus remains minimal, with no particular difference on April 20.
“I’ve never really noticed a change in the atmosphere at Tech (on April 20). The people who typically smoke are taking everything off campus,” said Nick Michaely, a senior finance major. “People do what they do all semester long; there’s no discrepancy on one day over another, at least not on campus.”
In fact, April 20 doesn’t see an increase in drug violators for campus residents.
“We’ve seen a general increase in the amount of marijuana violations in general in the past few years, but not specific to 4/20,” said Tricia Smith, associate director of Housing and Resident Life. “I think RAs on 4/20 exercise the same observation and judgment as they do throughout the year, but no increase in vigilance just because of a date.”
That means you won’t be seeing dozens of patrol cars circling the drill field just for the occasion.
“We watch for marijuana violators year round, so we won’t put extra officers out or increase patrol,” said Deborah Morgan, spokeswoman for the Tech Police Department. “I don’t know of any particular date that receives more scrutiny. Residents halls are not the easiest place to smoke.”
Some students, however, do notice a different trend on the day, just not in dorms.
“Off campus activity spikes every year, or at least around where I live,” said a senior biology major, who also preferred to remain unnamed. “I’ll celebrate Friday, but the difference that 4/20 makes is that you see a lot more people [consuming marijuana] than typically would. And they won’t be anywhere near campus, where it isn’t acceptable.”
The relative risk of getting caught when using drugs on campus is largely effective in keeping marijuana use out of the dorms. Some users even appreciate the diligence of Tech’s drug procedures.
“Even though 4/20 is a great experience with my friends, I think Tech has a good policy in keeping drug use off campus,” said an anonymous sophomore international studies major. “They don’t impose themselves on us. It’s just common knowledge that however you celebrate, it can’t happen here.”