Introducing the Arizona Reefer Review
In 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.