Rolling a blunt has long been illegal in the state of Georgia, but six weeks into a new school year, students are claiming weed has been ever-present on the university campus. Georgia State police told The Signal they receive at least one marijuana-related call every weekend.
On Mar. 21, 2016, Georgia State University Police Department (GSUPD) was called in to investigate a shooting between a student and a non-Georgia State individual over marijuana. The Piedmont North shoot-out which evolved after a drug deal gone-wrong occurred at Piedmont North.
University Lofts resident Treshaun Hill believes police are doing their part, but also said that minor marijuana cases are sometimes overlooked by the university’s police department. “I think police respond to extreme cases of marijuana, where students are just ignorant with it. For example, having the entire hallway smelling like weed,” he said.
Due to personal restraints a resident assistant (RA) from Piedmont Central wished to remain anonymous but told The Signal that the problem is within all residence halls, and not just a single dorm.
Police records show that the issue of marijuana from an arrest standpoint hasn’t been that paramount. However, GSUPD Chief Carlton Mullis said, “Probably every weekend we get a call about marijuana.” He added also, that sometimes the call may turn out to be nothing, after searches are conducted.
GSUPD and RAs follow procedures and guidelines given to them by the university when tasked with finding illegal substances on campus. University Lofts RA DeOndra Fletcher said RAs are only responsible for making sure they’re no illegal substances in plain sight. “When doing student checks, a RA will do this task with a partner in case of student hostility, but were also not allowed to go through student belongings.“ she said.
Justin Valentine, a resident at the Commons said, “I believe students should push their fourth amendment right and any right for that matter.”
According to police records from Georgia State’s police department, there have been three marijuana- related arrests this year, which is five fewer arrests from a year ago to date.
Valentine said he believes this is a great step in the right direction. “The fact that I still smell marijuana in my hallway shows there’s still a problem that needs to be solved, but solving the problem shouldn’t come at the expense of students losing their individual rights,” said Valentine.
According to Fletcher, if an RA is able to even smell a scent of marijuana while on a duty walk and can pinpoint the source of the odor being within the hallway, then they are told to call Georgia State police.
Fletcher said they’re told to do this, because they aren’t sure what might be behind that door or how the resident may react to them trying to police the situation. Prior to GSUPD involvement, the resident assistant is assigned the duty of making sure drug related rules are being followed.
“When the police arrive, even if we can’t pinpoint the smell but can generally assume where it’s coming from, then the police along with the RA and pro-staff duty will knock on the door, and the police will take it from there,” said Fletcher. Once the situation is stabilized, the RA will take student IDs of everyone in the room while police search for any illegal substances.
“Generally if we get a call about a smell of marijuana, whether it comes from the RA, somebody else in the hall, we show up and we start by knocking on the room’s door and see if the student inside will consent for the police to search,” Mullis said.
According to Mullis, Georgia State students have their Constitutional Fourth Amendment right to open the door or to keep it closed. He said that it’s more likely that the student will give consent and allow the officers to search.
If police are able to find any illegal substances, whether hidden, or in plain sight, charges will be filed and the student will be arrest for possession of marijuana.
Kazendi Simon, a University Lofts resident said, “I understand the university’s fight against marijuana on our campus, but with marijuana being legalized in other states and loosely enforced in other areas within the city, then I side with the student keeping police officers out of their room without a warrant.”
Simon has lived on campus at Georgia State in previous semesters. He claims he’s come across the odor of marijuana within a residence hall on numerous occasions but doesn’t find it to be a personal problem for himself, or for anyone he knows.
Georgia State Law professor and lawyer, Yvonne McDowell says, “Smell is probable cause for police searches in the state of Georgia.”
Mullis said once a student is charged, the charges for possession go to city and then community court where the student will be assigned to a diversion program, and the incident will be written in their record.