Pubdate: Thu, 14 Feb 2008
Source: Athens News, The (OH)
Copyright: 2008, Athens News
Author: Mike Ludwig, Campus Reporter
Bookmark: (Marijuana)
Bookmark: (Students - United States)


So, you've been busted for using marijuana at Ohio University. Take a
deep breath and look at the facts before you get too paranoid. If
you're just a recreational user, your predicament may not be as bad as
you think. You're going to have to keep your head straight and know
your rights, so here's a simple rundown of what you can expect to
happen after being caught with pot at OU.

Possessing and using pot is illegal and against OU's Code of Student
Conduct, but the penalties that most recreational users face when
they're caught aren't as harsh as they would be on many campuses or in
most other states.

According to legal advocates in the Ohio Patient Network, Ohio,
surprisingly, has some of the most lenient pot laws in the United
States. Recreational use of the drug has been "decriminalized" for
over 20 years, and offenders who possess less than 100 grams of pot
receive a "civil citation" and simply pay a $100 fine.

Possession of 100 to 200 grams of marijuana is a misdemeanor offense
in Ohio, but a defendant won't do any time on the charge unless he or
she is growing it. Possession of 200 to 1,000 grams could mean a
prison sentence of up to 6 months, and any evidence of intent to sell
marijuana can land a defendant behind bars as well.

Paraphernalia possession carries a maximum penalty of a $750 fine and
a possible but unlikely month in jail.

Pot and other drug convictions also can have repercussions for people
who drive. According to the Ohio Revised Code, for all drug
convictions, the offender's driver's license is suspended for six
months to five years. This does not apply to minor misdemeanor
violations for marijuana possession, however. Professional licenses
are also suspended for drug convictions.

Some Ohio municipalities have their own laws concerning marijuana, so
pot smokers should make sure they know the local legal situation
before they light up somewhere unfamiliar.

Being busted on campus is different than being busted on the street.
At OU, routine pot offenders are never suspended or expelled unless
they have additional charges or have a history of showing up in the
university justice system (University Judiciaries).

The first thing students should do after being charged for anything at
OU is contact Students Defending Students. Students in this
organization want to help students facing drug charges handle their
cases, and they know the answers to their questions. They can be
reached at 593-4045, or contacted in person between 6 and 9 p.m. in
the student government offices on the third floor of Baker University

"The whole structure of Judiciaries is set up to empower the student
to handle it themselves," said Michael Tomlinson, who directs Students
Defending Students. "We're always there and willing to go with them."

While the group cannot aid students who are arrested and charged
off-campus, Tomlinson said that most on-campus marijuana offenses,
arrests and write-ups do not lead to actual criminal charges.

Tomlinson said that OU Police and Residence Life officials don't need
"probable cause" to cite students. They only need "a preponderance of
evidence." This means that officials must be able to prove that "more
likely than not the incident happened."

According to Tomlinson, a good example of a "preponderance of
evidence" would be the strong odor of marijuana smoke coming from a
dorm room. Even if a student makes popcorn, hides in the closet and
refuses to answer the door when police arrive, they can still write
the student and his roommates up for using marijuana.

Tomlinson claimed that a vast majority of marijuana offenses are B-6
violations of the OU Student Code of Conduct, and such "Code B"
offenses do not lead to suspension or expulsion. For this reason, most
offenders attend a "procedural interview" with a Residence Life
official. During this interview, the official will verify that the
defendant understands what's going on, and then ask if the defendant
would like to admit to the charge or challenge it in

If a student chooses to admit his or her guilt, he or she will receive
punishment on the spot. The punishment could range from an almost
meaningless "reprimand" to a period of disciplinary probation.

But be careful. The university's marijuana policies are changing

Last quarter, The Office of Student Affairs announced a new policy
that the university will begin enforcing at the beginning of the 2008
fall quarter. This new policy, known as "Protocol B," states that
first-time pot offenders must pay a $100 fine, serve six to nine
months of probation and attend "an intervention program specific to
the nature of the offense."

Under the current policy, students who violate their probation are
charged with a more serious Code A offense. Pot offenses that are
legally worthy of a felony or a major misdemeanor are also Code A.
Such offenses can be punished by sanctions ranging from reprimand to
suspension or expulsion.

Next fall, Protocol B will change the way repeat offenders are

Repeat marijuana offenders who are already on probation will be
suspended if the second offense is also marijuana offense, and not an
alcohol or other offense. The same applies for alcohol.

Repeat offenders who are not on probation can expect at least a year's
worth of probation, a $100 fine and more intervention classes.

Students will still have three strikes before being thrown out as long
as they stay clean during any and all probationary periods.
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