By: Zack Noureddine
Drug use, primarily marijuana, has been a constant happening on and around the Algonquin campus for many years, becoming a problem for college security and city police who have been putting efforts to stabilize the problem.
“Substance abuse on college grounds is inevitable,” says Sgt. Patrice Poitevin, the RCMP coordinator of
the Drugs and Organized Crime Awareness Service in Ottawa.
“As a force of authority, the only and most effective approach is regulation of the law,” said Poitevin. “I do believe there should be higher penalties for those caught with illegal substances on properties of secondary institutions, but it’s more important to understand why there is such an abundance of substance abuse on these properties.”
Poitevin held a drug awareness workshop in February at the college to an audience of teachers and staff of the general arts and science faculty, covering substance abuse trends in the student community of Ottawa.
The answer to why they do it on and around college property is the same as why they do it in the first place. “To have fun, get high, or simply because it’s a common habit,” said Poitevin.
“Students aren’t getting high and returning to school to rebel or cause problems. They’re doing it because that’s what they do, regardless of environment.
They’re pot smokers. But, the law is the law; marijuana is illegal.”
Ryan Farm Park and baseball diamond behind the P-building is notorious for smokers, mainly marijuana users who take strolls off campus properties to smoke up. However, there’s no hiding it for the culprits who do it openly in broad daylight. Complaints from neighbours whose backyards face the park are very rare.
This means smokers are taking a lenient approach to exercising their habits during school hours. However, a growing concern from campus security over students returning from their smoke breaks.
Ryan Farm Park is not the only hot spot for marijuana users. The Deerfield neighbourhood which borders the campus parking lots is a
party haven for Algonquin students. It is also a convenient area for students to buy marijuana. The area is populated mostly by college students.
“The college ward is much more popular for drug dealers than areas surrounding the University of Ottawa and Carleton University,” said Ottawa Police constable Peter Lee. “That’s where we catch most of them. They are usually friends of students or students themselves who meet around campus property or Ryan Farm Park behind the campus buildings to traffic, buy and smoke.”
Most phone calls tipping off the deals are anonymous, however even Lee said reports from the neighbours are “almost zero to none.”
“GARDA security is good with cooperating with (Ottawa Police) on these matters,” he continued. “Even though these individuals are not causing a serious disturbance in the neighbourhood, smoking marijuana on city property is still illegal and law needs to be upheld.”
Noon is the prime time for smokers at Ryan Farm Park. “We see students smoking on a daily basis and heading back on to college property,” he continued. “But, there’s not much we can do when the joints are roached and they’re walking away.”
Ottawa Police hopes to tighten up on the issue by the time spring comes.
“Winter is a cold time for smokers to be going out of their way for a joint,” said Lee. “This doesn’t mean they still aren’t smoking. The lots that make up a majority of the campus space provide an easy way for students to smoke discretely in their cars. This leads to another problem, impaired driving. As bad as it sounds, we would rather have the students smoke and return to class then leave the lots high.”