Synthetic marijuana has become a major threat to public health, having hospitalized and even sent individuals to their deathbeds.
As a result, UMHB administrators have taken steps to protect students from the dangers of “fake pot.”
Synthetic cannabis is designed to mimic the high attained from marijuana.
When school officials recognized synthetic marijuana was a threat to students, they confronted the issue with a new policy.
Vice President of Student Life Dr. Byron Weathersbee discussed the university’s intentions of goodwill toward students.
“Sometimes we come across as having a lot of rules and cracking down—no—we’re just trying to navigate a good, healthy, clean environment where people can thrive and be at their best,” he said.
Weathersbee further explained his desire to preserve the quality of life on campus.
“UMHB is a unique place …. It’s a great place to come and engage the mind, engage the spirit, engage in life and have fun doing it,” he said. “Our hope is that people will live … good, healthy, moral lives.”
Many recognize synthetic marijuana by the brand names Blaze, K2 or Spice. It’s often marketed as incense or herbal smoking blends, making it legal, but not anymore.
As of March 1, the Drug Enforcement Administration temporarily banned five chemicals (JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-200, CP-47, 497, and cannabicyclohexanol) used in producing synthetic marijuana.
The chemicals will be controlled for one year and possibly an additional six months as the DEA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study them.
According to the DEA, synthetic cannabinoids have been banned in at least 18 U.S. states and other countries due to rapid and significant rises in abuse of the substances
Based on current scientific data, the five substances have a potential to be extremely harmful and threatening to public safety.
A 19-year-old father overdosed from using synthetic drugs and died at a party in Minnesota during spring break while ten others, ages 16-22, were hospitalized.
According to the DEA, using synthetic marijuana could result in agitation, anxiety attacks, elevated heart rate, convulsions, nausea and vomiting.
Last fall, UMHB administrators treated synthetic marijuana similar to the university’s policies on alcohol.
At the beginning of the spring semester, UMHB established a “zero tolerance” policy outlined in the student handbook. Dean of Students Ray Martin described the university’s sudden change on this policy.
“We had a choice. We could be proactive and protect our students, or we could wait and wait until somebody makes a rule,” he said.
Crusaders will find the university’s stance on synthetic marijuana along with the disciplinary sanctions that will follow if students choose to defy the university’s policies.
The student handbook says that the university “strictly prohibits students’ use of synthetic marijuana (JWH-018) has a ‘zero tolerance policy’ for possession, use (includes returning to campus after the use of), purchase, being under the influence of, and or distribution of this substance.” The policies apply to student conduct on or off campus.
As for the consequences, the first offense leads to a $150 fine and one semester on disciplinary probation. The second offense carries a $300 fine and two semesters of disciplinary probation. The third offense results in expulsion.
Martin describes questions he contemplates when faced with decisions concerning the university’s safety.
“What will take away from our students doing their best? And if the use of these things (harmful substances) makes it harder for our students to perform at their best, then that’s a problem,” he said.
There were at least three or four cases where students were in possession of synthetic drugs said Director of Campus Police Gary Sargent.
He said instances of students possessing synthetic marijuana have dropped since the new policy was initiated.
Sargent encourages students to live healthy and recognize the potential danger they subject themselves to when they allow foreign chemicals in their bodies.
Sargent said, “With every decision you make, think about the intentional or unintentional consequences of that decision.”