The recent conviction of a Kingston University student for possession of cannabis following his arrest in KUSU run Space Bar on the Penryhn Road campus raises a number of serious issues for those on all sides of the drugs debate.
The link between dope smoking and students is a long established one, so the fragrant aromas emanating from university dorms on campuses around the country can come as no surprise to students or lecturers alike.
This arrest however has transformed the implicit assumption of a sub-culture of drug use into an explicit recognition that it is occurring within the hallowed halls of this particular university.
So what’s the big problem?
From the University’s point of view the ‘problem’ is the perception of illegal drug-taking on its grounds which they have a responsibility to be seen to respond to.
The response in this instance seems heavy handed, particularly on the part of Kingston police, who sent two vans and three cars to deal with what appears to have been one lone cannabis smoker.
Dai Williams, 22, a third year Fine Art student, said: “It’s a waste of Police time. They’ve sent three police cars, that’s an extra three police cars who aren’t going around looking for people running round doing something far worse, not one guy who’s in uni who has a little bit of weed.”
From the cannabis smoker’s point of view the ‘problem’ is of a different nature.
Some feel persecuted for what they feel is a victimless crime.
Joss, 21, a third year Design student, said: “It depends what you mean by problem. I smoke myself so I don’t see it as a problem.”
“If I was smoking some weed I’d be sitting at home playing xbox. If I’m stoned I’m not causing any problems to society at all.”
By focusing discourse on the damage caused by drugs on cannabis, there is also a danger that discussion of the societal harm caused by that far more widely available drug of choice and social lubricant for the masses, alcohol, is avoided.
Sami Jacobs, a second year Economics and Politics student, while keen to point out that he himself was not a cannabis user, said “I definitely think alcohol’s more of a problem.”
Joss added “People who are pissed are much more likely to cause criminal damage or get into a fight” and the statistics seems to support this argument.”
A study by the Institute of Alcohol Studies reported in July of 2010 that nationally alcohol was implicated in 50% all fights and domestic assaults, 70% of beatings, 75% of stabbings and 60-70% of homicides and that alcohol is a factor in half of all crimes.
All this talk of the relative damage to society of alcohol and cannabis is nothing new and it seems that the tensions bubbling just below the surface of university life will continue to periodically reach boiling point through cases such as this.
To end the discussion on a slightly lighter note, here is Mike Skinner’s take on the issue on The Streets track The Irony Of It All.