Staff Editorial: Adam Eidinger and cannabis on campus
Capitol Hemp in Adams Morgan, a marijuana paraphernalia store owned by School of Public Affairs graduate Adam Eidinger (’96), reopened in August. D.C. police raided the previous iteration of the shop and its Chinatown post in 2012, according to Washington Post. The raid prompted Eidinger to seek to change marijuana laws in the District. He took control of the D.C. Cannabis Campaign and led the effort to get enough signatures to put Initiative 71 on the November 2014 ballot. It was approved with 64% of the vote and went into law in February.
AU has curiously not recognized Eidinger for his political activism or entrepreneurship, despite a tendency to reflexively congratulate alumni.
AU’s dismissal of Eidinger’s work may seem small or insignificant, but ignoring him as a decorated alum is reflective of AU’s larger issue with failing to adopt a more tolerant marijuana policy.
The Editorial Board understands that colleges and universities are limited in how much they can change their drug policies. Schools in Washington, Colorado and Oregon, where pot is not just legal to possess but sell, are challenged by legalization as well.
Colleges must implement drug prevention programs in order to receive federal funding. Possession of cannabis in D.C. is only legal for people 21 and older, which excludes many AU students. Alcohol also continues to be prohibited on campus, despite being legal to consume for those of age off-campus.
Still, AU could do more. A key issue is the lack of parity in punishment for alcohol and drug violations.
Violating the drug policy invites a whole set of sanctions for students. They are placed on “disciplinary probation,” which means they cannot run for elected or appointed leadership positions. If a student on disciplinary probation violates the Conduct Code again, even in a minor way, it can be grounds for removal from the residence halls or expulsion from the University.
Beyond that, offenders can be forced to attend meetings with a health educator on marijuana education and participate in a decision-making class. Parents are notified. A “probation incident” is permanently on the student’s conduct record. This can all happen after just one infraction.
Alcohol violations are treated much less severely. Typically, students simply have to dispose of the alcohol, meet with Student Conduct and may have to attend an alcohol education class. Violating the alcohol policy is much less damaging for the student both short and long-term.
This is wrong. Medical professionals widely acknowledge that alcohol is more harmful than marijuana. And Initiative 71 means the law treats marijuana much more like alcohol than heroin or cocaine.
The Conduct Code should reflect this. AU can discourage cannabis use on campus without imposing overly harsh punishments.
Moreover, for all violations of the Conduct Code, not just with cannabis, the University should treat students as adults and limit the paternalism that infuses so much of the discipline structure.
Notifying parents of students who are over 18 is patronizing. Random room checks constitute a gross invasion of privacy. Expanding Public Safety’s authority to enforce the Conduct Code off-campus is dubious, in our view.
Eidinger is proof that one can repeatedly violate the University drug policy and still go on to be a functioning person and make important contributions to our community. We believe AU should recognize this reality and change its policies accordingly.