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Thursday, 21 February 2013

Cannabis & smoking

I have been made aware recently of several complaints about the smell of cannabis smoke along corridors in the Hall, or coming in through windows from rooms below or either side.
 
It is difficult to prove that smoke is from cannabis rather than tobacco, even if most of us can recognise the difference. Because cannabis is so strong-smelling and diffuses very widely, it can also be very difficult to pin down exactly which room the smell is coming from. I do not want to see a situation where members of staff walk along corridors knocking on everyone’s door until they find the culprit, as I feel this is unduly intrusive for everyone concerned.
 
In light of recent complaints, however, I should like to draw everyone’s attention to the following.
 
1. The Intercollegiate Halls of Residence Licence Agreement 2012-3 prohibits both smoking and the use of cannabis:
 
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 v. 4.0.4 includes this warning:
 
14.5.2 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 (section 15.5):
 
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. If you smoke in your room and cover your smoke detector to avoid being caught, you will place yourself at risk of expulsion from the Hall.
 
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 disciplinary route and push for your expulsion.
 
 
Given the sharp rise in complaints about this matter recently, we cannot allow things to continue as they are.
 
If you are smoking in Hall and/or using cannabis here, please STOP immediately.
 
The cleaners have been instructed to be vigilant for signs of smoking and cannabis use in every room, 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 if you know who is responsible.
 
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
NHS CHOICES & NHS DIRECT
High quality information about health conditions both online and over the telephone
0845  4647
HELPGUIDE
“Helps you to help yourself with health challenges”
 
TALK TO FRANK
The National Drugs Helpline
0800 77 66 00
DRUGSLINE
Support, counselling and information about drugs
0808 1 606 606
SMOKEFREE
NHS help to stop smoking
0800 022 4 332
LONDON NIGHTLINE
Student volunteers offering telephone support
020 7631 0101
MIND
Support for people with mental health problems
0300 123 3393
 
CENTRE FOR ADDICTION & MENTAL HEALTH

Monday, 11 February 2013

Class of '78 reunion

I am always pleased when I see former residents visiting the Hall: last year, a large group of residents from the class of 2001 met up at Connaught Hall and joined us for dinner and a drink in the bar. They had travelled here to London from three continents to meet up again. I remembered them all so it was a lovely chance to catch up.

Now, the class of 1978 (academic year '77-'78) are planning a reunion. They are not all in touch with one another on Facebook, so I'd like to try and help the organisers spread the word and maybe find a few of those they are missing.

If you were at Connaught Hall in '77/'78, please get in touch with me or Adrian Day: https://www.facebook.com/#!/adrian.day1.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Happy Lunar New Year

The Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival, begins on 10 February and marks the start of the Year of the Snake. It is a time to reflect on old wisdom and relish the challenge of new beginnings; to honour one’s family and community, and to look forward to a joyful and prosperous New Year.

The predominant colours of the fifteen-day long New Year celebration are red, for good luck, and gold, for wealth and happiness. It is a spectacular festival of sound, bright colours, and exotic flavours. I hope everyone will take part in our celebrations here in Hall, and I encourage you to visit Chinatown to experience some of the exciting events taking place there.

I wish everyone celebrating this special festival peace, prosperity, and good health in 2013. May you realise your ambitions and all your wishes be fulfilled.

Gung hay fat choy.

This message is available as a video here: http://youtu.be/0l-UKCyxOUc