Georgetown University’s sanctioning guidelines provide harsher punishments for marijuana usage than the use of alcohol. The university should remedy this unnecessary discrepancy by revising marijuana-related punishments to be more similar in severity to alcohol-related ones.
When Georgetown students are disciplined for possession or use of marijuana or alcohol, their punishments are largely determined by the damage they did to the community around them, according to the Georgetown Office of Student Conduct sanctioning guidelines.
Although marijuana users are no more likely than alcohol users to pose a risk to the Georgetown community, they are punished more harshly under Georgetown policies.
A first-time violation of alcohol possession carries with it a required online “Think About It” course to educate students on the harms of substance abuse, a $50 fee to pay for the course and five work sanction hours, according to the Code of Student Conduct. A first-time marijuana-related violation is punished by “likely” housing probation, a $50 fine, five work sanction hours and the completion of an educational project.
Georgetown’s disparity in punishments does not reflect the respective dangers of marijuana and alcohol use.
Alcohol is a factor in 40 percent of all violent crimes, according to Business Insider. The Georgetown community itself has been a victim of alcohol-driven violence in the past. In 2000, an altercation between two groups of students led to the death of David Shick (MSB ’01). Both groups had been drinking.
Marijuana has not been scientifically connected to these dangerous effects, nor has it led to violence on Georgetown’s campus. Conversely, a National Institutes of Health study found marijuana users were significantly less likely to commit violence against a partner.
While the full effect of marijuana usage remains inconclusive because of a lack of scientific research, Georgetown’s current punishment system defies existing evidence about the consequences of both substances.
Marijuana is not harmless: Like alcohol, its usage can lower grades, impair memory and harm vision, according to a study conducted by Olin Neuropsychiatry Research Center and Hartford Hospital in Connecticut. However, it poses no more danger than alcohol to “the level of risk and/or harm of the Respondent to the University community,” the sanctioning standard recommended by the university in its stated guidelines.
Despite available evidence, Georgetown’s marijuana-related policies do not reflect reality — or even its own guidelines.
Administrators have previously cited Washington, D.C., and federal law to defend the university’s harsh standards.
“Federal law prohibits possession, manufacturing, and use of marijuana,” then-Director of Media Relations Rachel Pugh wrote in a 2014 email to The Hoya. “As a recipient of federal funds — including campus-based student aid funds — we comply with federal laws, such as those requiring a drug-free workplace.”
However, federal law simply requires the university to forbid marijuana usage on campus and develop a drug prevention program. Georgetown can change marijuana-related policies to match alcohol-related ones without the threat of losing any federal funding.
Changing Georgetown’s marijuana policies should not be limited to sanctioning guidelines. In addition to changing punishment policies, the university should create an online course — modeled after “Think About It” — that educates freshmen about the detrimental effects of marijuana.
Georgetown students deserve sanctioning guidelines that reflect the actual danger — or lack thereof — that their actions bring upon the community.
Administrators must match marijuana policies to alcohol policies to ensure students are being treated fairly and proportionally to their crimes.
The Hoya’s editorial board is composed of six students and is chaired by the Opinion Editor. Editorials reflect only the beliefs of a majority of the board and are not representative of The Hoya or any individual member of the board.