Possible rise in drug use on campus
Police department’s annual security and fire safety report shows increase in drug violations
Published: Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 3, 2013 09:10
Illegal drug consumption at the University of Connecticut’s Storrs campus may be on the rise, according to a senior police official.
The police department’s annual security and fire safety report released on Monday showed a dramatic increase in the number of arrests and referrals due to drug-related offenses.
“The numbers in the report kinda speak for themselves,” Deputy Police Chief Hans Rhynhart said. “So I think there has been an increase, specifically in marijuana use or our interactions with people who are using marijuana.”
From 2010 to 2012, the number of drug-related arrests and referrals at the Storrs campus increased by 60.9 percent. In the three-year time span, there was a 35.5 percent increase in drug violation arrests, rising from 152 to 206. The number of drug violation referrals more than doubled, rising from 86 in 2010 to 177 in 2012.
Rhynhart could not confirm whether the increase was a result of better policing or a legitimate increase in marijuana and drug usage on campus.
“I can’t say why that’s the case, why there are more interactions with people with marijuana,” Rhynhart said. “It may be a result of the law, the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana on July 1, 2011.”
In 2011, the state of Connecticut enacted law allowing the legal possession of up to one-half gram of marijuana. Then in 2012, the state legalized medicinal marijuana for patients in the state.
Of the 206 drug-related arrests at UConn’s Storrs campus in 2012, Rhynhart said about 140 of those incidents were marijuana infractions under the new legislation.
According to one student group, the increase in arrests and referrals should not have to happen.
Students for Sensible Drug Policy President Evan Fulton argued that university policies and state laws should be changed to relax restrictions and keep marijuana users out of the legal system. Fulton said the “school-to-prison pipeline” is preventing real mental health issues from being addressed.
In the short term, SSDP hopes to see the school enact an equalization policy – a policy that would treat marijuana offenses with the same severity as alcohol-based offenses, according to Fulton. Specifically, Fulton would like to see the rules changed to prevent resident assistants from having to report marijuana incidents to the UConn Police Department.
He also said SSDP is looking to open a “safe house” off campus, as a location for students to consume marijuana without the risk of being charged with a felony for possession of an illegal substance in a school zone. With E.O. Smith High School immediately adjacent to the Storrs campus, Fulton said many students are in danger of violating that law without realizing it.
The trend at UConn during the last three years has been in direct contradiction to statewide trends, according to SSDP Chief Financial Officer Tyler Williams. While drug-related arrests have dramatically decreased around the state since the 2011 legislation was enacted, Williams said, UConn has seen more than a 35 percent increase in arrests on campus.
“Whether they were using (marijuana) before and being more careful and not getting caught,” Rhynhart said, “or as to now where the penalty isn’t at the point where they’re as concerned as they were if they were arrested, it’s hard to tell what the reason is.”
The trends, however, are clear and the UConn Police Department plans to investigate the data in the coming weeks and months, according to Rhynhart.