News Staff Writer
More and more frequently, UNC Asheville students resort to less-than-legal means of finding relief for the stressors of college, but the potential repercussions may outweigh the benefits.
Hannah Earnhardt, a sophomore literature student from Charlotte, is frustrated with the legal climate surrounding marijuana.
Earnhardt said she finds marijuana medically important, not just for her, but for her best friend.
“It takes away a lot of my anxiety, that’s for sure. It definitely takes away headaches and helps me sleep better,” Earnhardt said. “My best friend was diagnosed with cancer this past year and she has been smoking a lot of weed to get rid of her nausea from her chemo. So there’s a good number of benefits to that.”
Other students, such as Ryan Miller, a sophomore drama student, agree that marijuana helps with disorders such as anxiety and insomnia.
“As someone that struggles with a lot of anxiety things, it definitely helps me calm my nerves. I also had a sleeping disorder that I didn’t know about until I started smoking weed and I started sleeping through the night,” Miller said. “Which again, I did not know I had a problem sleeping until I realized what a good night’s sleep was.”
However, the illegal nature of smoking marijuana on campus creates problems for those who partake.
Robert Britton, a sophomore management student from Fayetteville, witnessed first-hand the consequences of getting caught.
“I had a knock on my door and I said, ‘Come in,’ and it was two cops. We had just smoked in the bathroom, and it smelled really bad and in the hallway because we didn’t towel the doors,” Britton said. “They came in and gave us both citations and then took the weed, put it in a bucket and just left.”
Britton said there was a disciplinary process but it did not discourage him from further smoking.
“I had to pay a $50 fine and got three months probation on campus, so if I got caught again I’d be in more trouble and I had to make a poster of choice,” Britton said. “Then I had to go to a class and do some online homework for it.”
According to the UNC Asheville Resident Student Handbook, those in possession of or found using drugs classified as illegal by state or federal laws are subject to disciplinary proceedings by the university. However, these matters are handled internally, without the influence of city police.
Not all students have felt the weight of getting caught by campus police, though many experience close calls.
Miller said he had a run-in with a police officer shortly after he smoked marijuana but escaped unscathed.
“There was one time where, after smoking, I did smell. I got into an elevator with a police officer, but he did not actually do anything, which I was kind of surprised about,” Miller said.
Still others, like Earnhardt, have yet to encounter campus police and are doubtful it will become an issue.
“Honestly, I think if I got a citation or got in trouble, I would probably just not smoke weed on campus because it would scare the crap out of me. But there aren’t any cops around where I smoke, so I don’t feel stressed about it,” Earnhardt said. “I don’t even worry about it half the time and it’s also Asheville, so people are a little bit more lenient with it.”
Even with the benefits students find smoking weed, drawbacks make themselves evident.
Earnhardt said the ease of access in college has the potential to become habit-forming for many and increased fatigue combined with lack of motivation can prove deadly for a GPA.
“I think college makes it easy to make things like that a habit because you have a lot of free time and you could have late classes and think, ‘Well, I’ll just get lit every night,’ or something. I think it could be bad if you smoke all the time,” Earnhardt said. “You could be more tired or might not do your homework as much or something. It could possibly take away from your schoolwork, which would be bad, but that’s dependent on the person.”
When choosing whether or not to live on campus, ease of marijuana smoking comes up as a priority factor for some.
Miller said although he was put on the waitlist for housing, he’s glad he did not secure on-campus housing for this year.
“I did get put on the waitlist but I was honestly really happy with that decision because I could continue to use marijuana for medicinal purposes off-campus without fear of getting a citation or getting kicked off of campus,” Miller said.
With marijuana legalization passed in four states, the conversation surrounding marijuana laws grows on campus.
Earnhardt said she finds the current marijuana laws unnecessary and the government helps restrict something with the potential to help people.
“I think they’re rather unnecessary. I don’t really have a strong opinion about them, but I think they’re unnecessary just because I think there are a lot of benefits to it and it could help a lot of people,” Earnhardt said. “I think by making it illegal like they have and all that kind of regulation stuff about it, it could be helping a lot of people and it’s not.”
Miller said the laws should not be as strict and legalization would make it easier to regulate distribution.
“I think they’re ridiculous. I don’t think they need to be as strict as they are. I feel like if weed is legalized it would be a lot easier to regulate the distribution of it, if that makes sense,” Miller said.
However, students like Britton see a future where marijuana is legalized across the nation.
“I think it’s going to be legalized soon. I mean, California just became recreational, so it will soon come,” Britton said.