The Arizona Desert Lamp

Introducing the Arizona Reefer Review

Posted in Campus, Politics by Connor Mendenhall on 7 February 2009

devilsharvestIn a column I wrote last year on 4th amendment rights in UA residence halls, I observed that “a cursory look at the Wildcat‘s popular ‘Police Beat'” shows most evictions and arrests for alcohol and drugs “could be avoided if students merely exercised their rights.” I am amazed by the number of college students who happily open their doors when police come knocking, and consent without a second thought to searches that might otherwise require a warrant.

So I’ll repeat the crux of my column again, for the good of the studentry: when any agent of the state knocks on your door, you have the right to turn them away. That action has consequences. If it’s an RA, they may call the police. If it’s a police officer, they’ll call a judge for a warrant to enter. But your constitutional rights don’t end where the university begins, and you ought to know how to exercise those rights to protect yourself.

I’m no fan of abetting campus criminals, but the victimless drug violations that account for almost a third of all UAPD arrests are criminal in name only–or at least, I assumed most of them were. To be sure, I decided to take a more-than-cursory look at this year’s police blotter entries, to see how many arrests might have been avoided and how many crimes were consensual. The Arizona Reefer Review, a new project here at the Lamp, is a collection of digital clippings I’ve compiled from the Wildcat‘s “Police Beat,” chronicling all marijuana-related arrests and citations reported in the campus daily since the beginning of the 2008-2009 academic year. The results might shock drug warriors:

Of the 46 arrests and incidents involving marijuana possession reported in “Police Beat” this year, there were only three cases where police discovered anything beyond more pot, alcohol, and the occasional bong or pipe: a routine traffic stop on a car passing through campus that turned up six pounds of marijuana and a revolver, a man arrested in the library for violating an exclusionary order, and a man caught playing “Mario Kart” in Coronado with an outstanding warrant. None of the three cases involved UA students. In other words, all reported incidents involving marijuana on the UA campus this year have been victimless, nonviolent, consensual crimes.

Of the 46 arrests and incidents, there are 27 cases in which students had a chance to assert their rights by asking for a warrant before admitting police to their rooms or consenting to a further search, but did not do so. Just once did students resist a search, by refusing to acknowledge an officer’s knock at the door of their dorm room.

Of the 46 arrests and incidents, there are no reported cases involving students who smoked so much marijuana that they were rushed to the hospital in an ambulance or discovered covered in vomit on the bathroom floor in their dorm. There are no reported cases where marijuana made a student trash his roommate’s bedroom or send threatening messages to his ex-girlfriend. Not one–just otherwise normal students enjoying a drug so potent that even occasional users can go on to win fourteen gold medals or become President of the United States.

Imagine if UAPD stopped wasting officer time and taxpayer money responding to nightly calls from resident assistants who catch a whiff of weed. Imagine if UAPD spent that time and those resources on something else, like stopping drunk driving–the biggest campus crime that imposes significant costs on others.

Imagine if the Dean of Students office stopped wasting time disciplining students for their private choices, and wasting money running a parallel students-only judicial system. Imagine if all the students whose property was confiscated by the state or who were arrested or cited by officers could have continued their academic lives without the hassle of mandatory diversion courses or trips downtown to Superior Court to be punished for their own decisions.

Then imagine if all these students had been private citizens whose homes were burned and dogs killed in no-knock raids, or Hispanic kids caught in a park in South Tucson, and be thankful that the worst atrocities and injustices of the war on drugs haven’t yet come to UA.


12 Responses

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  1. mattstyer said, on 7 February 2009 at 8:54 am

    Great work Connor. This is fantastic.

  2. sobe said, on 7 February 2009 at 9:58 am

    Welcome to AmeriKKKa

  3. Jimi Alexander said, on 7 February 2009 at 12:11 pm

    Anyone else notice that “it’s” is used incorrectly on the propaganda poster?

    Hey, these people aren’t getting thrown in jail. They’re getting cited, reported to the Dean of Students, and then being allowed to carry on with their lives up until they go to court. I see nothing wrong with these efforts, and I find it’s certainly better than the alternative which is every campus dorm smelling like a skunk top-to-bottom on a daily basis.

    The bottom line is this: if you wanna smoke your mary-jane, take it to your friend who lives off-campus. Take it out into the wilderness. Just make sure you’re not in a state-owned sardine apartment where everyone’s gonna be able to smell it and overzealous RAs are going to nail your balls to the wall for it. Smoking /anything/ within a dorm is a violation of Community Standards, especially since the oldest dorms are almost a century old and have outdated ventilation systems. In that case it’s not a matter of it being a “consensual, victimless” crime, but of recklessly endangering others, possibly the student with severe asthma that lives in the next room. On top of that, if you’re trying to study, the smell of weed can break concentration like nothing else (except maybe if you’re hungry and your roommate brings pizza in…mmm, pizza.)

    Also, I am assuming from what I’ve read of the Community Standards that if a student doesn’t comply with a drug search, they’re subject to immediate eviction, whereas if they are compliant they can receive a measure of leniency. There’s a time when standing up to authority is right and just, and then there’s a time when it is not in your best interest. I wouldn’t try to be a hero in this regard. Besides, what college student ever thought straight when they were high?

  4. Tomkzinti said, on 7 February 2009 at 6:14 pm

    Jimi Alexander: “take it to your friend who lives off-campus. Take it out into the wilderness.”

    Are you suggesting that the stoned students DUI it right back to the dorm afterwards, or do you think they should simply sit around in the woods until they’re done being stoned? lol

    “Also, I am assuming from what I’ve read of the Community Standards that if a student doesn’t comply with a drug search, they’re subject to immediate eviction”

    That doesn’t mean they have to open the door immediately, does it? What if they were not in the room? Be vewy vewy quiet, we’re hunting cannabis…

  5. llabesab said, on 8 February 2009 at 2:24 am

    Here’s another liberal looney who thinks smoking pot is a victimless crime. Tell that to those people who have died and/or been maimed by some crackhead in college driving his/her Mercedes down the wrong side of the street because they were so stoned they couldn’t even recognize the steering wheel. If it’s a “crime”, it isn’t “victimless”. Sometimes, the “victim” is the smoker’s brain slowly turning to an amorphous gelatinous mess. Hey, if we all have to wear helmets on bikes and seatbelts in cars because we “might” get hurt and thus become a burden to society, then crackheads shouldn’t smoke–they might get lung cancer, or fry their brains, assuming they had any.

  6. Connor Mendenhall said, on 8 February 2009 at 5:00 am

    Matt: Thanks! Nice to see the new blog, by the way.

    Jimi: First, hover your mouse over the poster for a few seconds. Then, consider: if drugs like marijuana were legal (or even if our campus police chose to spend their resources enforcing other laws) would most students choose “crappy dorm room” and “locked car in parking garage” as their top tokin’ locales? Plenty of tobacco smokers live in UA dorms and manage to be courteous about their habit. You’re right–if the dorm rules are “no smoking,” then those are the rules, and residents should respect them. But it’s hard to see legalization resulting in more paranoid furtive smoking in residence halls–it would be great for students with severe asthma, the studying, and the recently pizza-endowed. Plus, calling secondhand smoke externalities reckless endangerment seems a bit exaggerated. When was the last time you needed to call the police to have a cigarette smoker forcibly removed from nearby? Common courtesy goes a long way, even among the totally stoned.

    Jimi and Tomkzinti: If I’m reading the same community standards you are (, there’s nothing about immediate eviction for noncompliance with a search. If you’ve read something else in another document–or been told something else by an RA or a Residence Life official–I’d be interested to hear. It’s not always in the interest of the University for students to know their rights; much easier to just get those troublemakers arrested and evicted.

    llabesab: I’ll add Appendix A, below:

    Of the 46 arrests and incidents involving marijuana possession reported in “Police Beat” this year, there are no reported cases of people who have died and/or been maimed by some crackhead in college driving his/her Mercedes down the wrong side of the street because they were so stoned they couldn’t even recognize the steering wheel. In fact there are no reported cases of students driving under the influence of cannabis at all!

    I don’t know if you enjoy the occasional tipple, or spend much time writing comments on the internet, but both pursuits are consensual choices that can slowly turn your brain into an amorphous gelatinous mess. I’d imagine both of us do both in moderation, and there’s no difference with marijuana.

    On a slightly more serious note, I recently finished reading “Infinite Jest,” by David Foster Wallace, a book that doesn’t just describe the terrible process of substance dependence and withdrawal and explore the idea of addiction from just about every angle, but actually makes you feel it a bit by the end. I’ve never dealt with delirium tremens or heroin withdrawal, and I hope this book is the closest I come to either. But though I’ve got a new respect for the complexity of addiction, it’s made it even clearer that addictions and dependencies aren’t the sort of thing one can just legislate into oblivion.

    In other news, I had an “Infinite Jest” dream last night, which seemed like nothing but an eternity of detailed exposition about youth tennis. It was hideous and fascinating, especially because it was so vivid and I was there, watching this wild series of tennis facts streaming out of my brain and taking on physical form. I knew all about the standings of elite under-16 youth tennis–hell, I was the standings of elite under-16 youth tennis, and at the same time I was detached and watching myself, horrified. Who needs drugs when you’ve got novels?

  7. unduk said, on 8 February 2009 at 8:35 am

    nice article, awesome story!
    Much food for thought…
    It really made my day.
    Thank you.

  8. Justyn Dillingham said, on 8 February 2009 at 1:34 pm

    This is the best post ever, partly because of its articulate righteousness, but mostly for inspiring someone to call Connor Mendenhall (for the first time ever, I’d wager) a “liberal looney.”

  9. Connor Mendenhall said, on 8 February 2009 at 1:52 pm

    In the strictest Robert A. Heinlein sense, he might be accurate. [EDIT: YES I AM AN EXILED SPACE-FARMER –ECM]

  10. […] since then, has become remarkably safe, now that we’ve effectively cracked down on the pot smokers who were causing all of the trouble in the first place. But the broader point is […]

  11. Jacob Koopmann said, on 10 February 2009 at 11:27 pm

    Hello and nice work! My name is Jake and I am a member of AZ4NORML, the official Tucson chapter for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. This study is very interesting and surprisingly not surprising. UAPD have reckless drivers, hard drug dealers, and plenty of homeless to deal with. These people are in plain view around campus while marijuana smokers are sitting in their dorms assaulting their x-box 360’s! Its plain and simple, leave students who smoke marijuana alone UAPD, and NOW! Please check out if you are interested in our organization. We meet every third Saturday of the month at 3202 East 1st Street near country club and speedway @ 3pm. Peace and good luck -Jake AZ4NORML

  12. […] on 28 April 2009 Reminding college students of their Fourth Amendment rights is one of the pet issues here at the Lamp, so naturally we’re glad to see that some kids are reading their […]

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