On Oct. 20, a bill that decriminalizes the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana in the city, passed by the Philadelphia City Council in September and signed by Mayor Nutter last week, will take effect. The bill was strongly supported by City Council Democrat James Kenney, who openly stated that limiting a person’s job prospects or financial security “over three joints in their pocket” was ridiculous.
Temple’s Student Code of Conduct prohibits the possession of marijuana on Main Campus and the consequences of violating this regulation are strict. For the first offense, a student is placed on probation for 15-20 weeks and receives a $250 fine. A second offense earns them a $500 fine and potentially removal from their residence hall, while a third offense leads to recommendation for expulsion from the university.
Students can also risk losing their financial aid and scholarships if they are caught with an inconsequential amount of marijuana, intended for personal use, not unlawful sale.
If the city of Philadelphia is ready to accept that the widespread use of marijuana is not limited to delinquents and criminals, Temple should also adopt that mindset. The passing of the bill reflects changing attitudes toward marijuana use across the country and in Philadelphia. Now that laws regarding marijuana use vary state-by-state and regulations less strict in nature are becoming accepted, students will look for a change in the Student Code of Conduct – and rightly so. Contradicting city law will not serve to keep Main Campus safer, it will only lead to students engaging in unsafe behavior to avoid penalization by the university. If there is confusion among students about what regulations do and do not apply to them, they will be more likely to unintentionally violate campus policy. During college, most students are learning how to be independent adults – leaving them without clear instructions for personal conduct not only hinders this growth period, but is also potentially damaging to their academic achievement during higher education and future success.
The dry campus policy does not stop students from drinking every weekend. University officials are well aware of this reality, and take appropriate response measures to help students make better choices and stay safe on Main Campus. Medical amnesty for students allows them to handle a potentially dangerous situation safely and without serious consequences to their educational career, but there is a lack of similar policy for marijuana use. A student who needs his or her stomach pumped after consuming excessive amounts of alcohol can claim amnesty, but a student caught smoking a joint could lose their financial aid. It seems unreasonable that the university can openly address the issue of underage drinking with policy that protects students, but continues to address marijuana use with harsh repercussions even when the amount in question does not indicate criminal intent. This inconsistency is a glaring issue in safety policy.
Students will always find a way to experiment, whether it is in a safe or unsafe environment. Marijuana use is a common recreational activity that, like underage drinking, will continue to be prevalent on Main Campus whether or not university policy forbids it. While Temple certainly should not condone abuse of drugs or criminal activity, in 13 days minimal marijuana possession will no longer be criminal activity in Philadelphia. Temple students are citizens of Philadelphia and should experience the same rights and privileges as their off-campus neighbors.