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Thursday, 14 November 2013

Cannabis & smoking

A handful of residents have received a personal communication today about suspected cannabis use in their area of the Hall. Whilst we have identified a few areas where we need to exercise particular vigilance, some of the information in that letter is relevant to everyone in Hall:

Cannabis smoking seems to be a much more prevalent problem this year that it has been for a long time. Section 8 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 requires me as Warden to take action where I have reason to suspect that controlled drugs are being used illegally within the Hall: I commit a criminal offence if I allow this to continue. 

It can be difficult to pin down exactly which room the smell is coming from. I do not want to see a situation where members of staff are knocking on everyone’s door until they find the culprit: for at this stage, I consider such action to be unduly intrusive for everyone concerned. So, for now, the cleaners have been instructed to be extra vigilant for signs of smoking and cannabis use, and to report all suspicions to me. The Senior Members, likewise, will monitor for signs of cannabis use on their daily duty rounds. 

If you are in the great majority of residents who do not smoke or use cannabis in Hall, then I urge you to exert what peer pressure you can to discourage smoking on your corridor and by your friends, and to report to me (in confidence, of course) if you know who or suspect is responsible. 
If you are not using cannabis in Hall, you can stop reading now; if you are using cannabis, please read on. 

If you are smoking in Hall and/or using cannabis here, please STOP immediately.

Consider the following:

1. The Intercollegiate Halls of Residence Licence Agreement prohibits both smoking and the use of cannabis:
9.5 You must not take part in any illegal activities.
9.6 You must not use illegal drugs.
9.7 All the halls operate a strict non-smoking policy which includes the interior of the accommodation and covers the balconies (where applicable) and the courtyard areas in some halls. Please check the individual hall handbooks for confirmation. For avoidance of doubt, smoking whilst leaning out of windows is not permitted.

2. The Connaught Hall Residents’ Handbook includes this warning:
Drugs & discipline: Unauthorised possession and use of controlled drugs is illegal and is a serious disciplinary offence.

Residents using or possessing illegal drugs in Hall, or allowing others to use or possess them in Hall, are liable to be dismissed without notice and may have the matter referred to their college or to the police. Any guests will be required to leave immediately.

Anyone found to be supplying drugs in Hall will be reported immediately to the police and required to leave the Hall within 24 hours.

3. The Law: Cannabis is a Class B drug in the UK – it is illegal to possess cannabis or supply others – and you can still be arrested for possession.
The penalty for possession is up to five years in jail. Supplying someone else (which includes giving it away to friends) can get you fourteen years and an unlimited fine.
If the police catch you with cannabis, they’ll always take some action. This could be a warning, a reprimand, a formal caution, a fixed penalty or an arrest and possible conviction. A conviction for a drug-related offence could have a pretty serious impact. It can stop you visiting certain countries – for example the United States – and limit the types of jobs you can apply for.

4. The Residents’ Handbook warns against smoking in Hall:
Smoking damages paintwork, furniture, curtains, and carpets. If we find evidence of smoking in your room, an extra cleaning charge of £50 will be deducted from your damage deposit.

Cigarette smoke can set off the smoke detector in your room. Anyone who causes a false alarm in this way will be interviewed by the Warden.

Covering smoke detectors is a criminal offence and seriously jeopardises our fire safety arrangements and the lives of all our residents. Breach of these rules will constitute serious misconduct as defined in the Licence Agreement. Sanctions may include expulsion or a fine of up to £250.

5. Cannabis smoke has a much greater propensity to set off the fire alarm than does plain tobacco smoke.

6. Some health facts about cannabis from Frank:
  • Cannabis can cause feelings of anxiety, suspicion, panic and paranoia.
  • Regular cannabis use is associated with an increase in the risk of later developing psychotic illnesses including schizophrenia.
  • Regular use makes it difficult to learn and concentrate; research has linked cannabis use to poor exam results. This is a potentially serious risk if you’re young, when the brain is still developing. People who take a lot of cannabis can also find they lack motivation.
  • Smoking cannabis can make asthma worse, can cause wheezing in people without asthma and can lead to lung cancer, coughs, chest infections, and heart disease.
  • Frequent use of cannabis may affect fertility.

7. I see drug use as a health & welfare matter, not purely a disciplinary issue. If you are concerned about your own or a friend’s drug use, either in Hall or elsewhere, please approach me in confidence. If you come to me genuinely seeking help, I will offer the confidential support you need in a non-judgmental way. If, on the other hand, we “catch” you using drugs, I will pursue a serious misconduct investigation.

As always, please contact me if you have any questions or concerns about this or any other matter.

Contact details of organisations that can help with information, advice, and treatment for drug and smoking-related problems

High quality information about health conditions both online and over the telephone
“Helps you to help yourself with health challenges”

The National Drugs Helpline
0800 77 66 00
Support, counselling and information about drugs
0808 1 606 606
NHS help to stop smoking
0800 022 4 332
Student volunteers offering telephone support
020 7631 0101
Support for people with mental health problems
0300 123 3393