Many students at Chapman consider nearly half, if not all, of their friends as pot-smokers. And though marijuana at Chapman is readily available, it’s still somewhat stigmatized. This discrepancy stems from the university’s proximity to many medical marijuana dispensaries in contrast to the traditionally conservative Orange County, according to junior Jake Garland.
“[Chapman] is actually one of the top-10 California school with access to marijuana,” said Garland. “It’s right in the hub of the collective medical marijuana areas … and it’s got a lot of wealthy students who have a lot of money to blow and a lot of time to do recreational drugs.”
Senior Crissi Vogt agrees that marijuana is easy to get.
“If it’s something you want to do then it’s very easily done,” she said. “You can find people who do it without really trying. Everyone at Chapman knows somebody who does it, whether it’s themselves or someone else.”
But Vogt, who’s never smoked marijuana, doesn’t think Chapman’s pot-smoking community is any different than that of other institutions of higher education.
“I don’t think there’s a pot problem at Chapman,” she said. “I think it’s a very common thing on a college campus.”
Even so, Garland thinks the immense availability of medical marijuana may have drawn in students who would have otherwise stayed away.
“Because it’s everywhere around here, people would be like ‘Okay, everyone is trying it. Let’s see what’s going on,'” said Garland. “And since there’s not a constant surge of parties every weekend to keep people entertained, they’ll look elsewhere.”
Garland believes that there has even been an increase in marijuana use in recent years.
“I’ve lived off-campus for the past two years, but I would say the availability has gotten even greater,” he said. “It seems like it’s moved onto campus a lot more.”
The Panther reported that “there have been 15 student conduct referrals and five arrests related to marijuana” as of Oct. 21, 2008, an increase from zero marijuana violations in the same period last year.
However, the California Department of Public Health recorded 8,393 medical marijuana cards issued in the 2007-2008 fiscal year – down from 10,273 the year before.
Medical marijuana cardholders are the primary source for weed at Chapman, according to John, a junior who sold marijuana at Chapman until he was arrested last February.
John agreed to be interviewed on the condition that his last name remain confidential.
During his freshman year, he and his roommate were cited with possession of drugs and paraphernalia.
“That was actually like, the third day of school freshman year,” said John. “So we got there for orientation and then the Wednesday after that, my roommate and I got totally f-cked.”
After being sent to the Residence Peer Conduct Board and given a formal warning, neither suffered further consequences.
“I’m of the belief that whatever you do in the privacy of your own home – whether or not it’s Chapman property – should be allowed,” said Garland. “It is illegal, so students probably shouldn’t be doing it on campus. If they’re getting caught, they’re doing it wrong.”
According to John, there was a constant flow of people into his North Morlan room, with sometimes up to 10 people packed into the tiny space. Even after he moved off campus, he continued selling to about 10-15 people per day.
“When I got out of class, I’d go over to my friend’s house and if he’d want some, I’d give him some and we’d smoke,” he said. “I’d pretty much be going house to house or apartment to apartment until I came home around 10 or 11 p.m.”
For John and his friends, regular pot use was a way to escape the stresses of everyday life as well as a means of bonding with others.
“When we smoked, it seemed like we were just doing it to numb ourselves from Chapman. It helped me cope and get through all my homework,” he said. “It also brought my friends and I closer together. Although there’s a lot of stuff to do here, I just see it as more fun getting high and doing stuff.”
John believes that smoking marijuana is harmless, especially compared to other more socially-acceptable drugs.
“The government is totally against marijuana, but they will pump up everyone with prescription medication,” he said. “I’m on Xanax right now. Xanax is addictive as hell.”
Vogt thinks it’s fine for people to use marijuana recreationally, but that it’s harmful once it becomes a necessity.
“If you can’t get through your day or if you can’t get over something that stresses you without any type of drug, it’s a problem,” she said. “I know it just calms you, but it doesn’t solve your issues. It just covers it.”