The first time I smelled marijuana smoke, I distinctly remember thinking what an odd odor it is. Wood smoke has a crisp, full odor. Cigarettes give off a fainter aroma, light, but sharp. Marijuana is more difficult to describe: sharp like a cigarette, but distractingly sweet-and-sour. It's an unpleasant odor that many students, myself included, will encounter for the first time at college. I just wish we could stop encountering it.
I don't usually like to comment on the subject of drug abuse, specifically because I do not have particularly strong views on the matter. I do not smoke, snort, inhale, chew or inject drugs myself, yet I would be hard-pressed to prevent another human being from engaging in recreational drug use if he or she so desired. It's your freedom, and I have no right to infringe upon it.
However, I feel compelled to inform a few students around campus that common courtesy still applies when you're stoned.
Specifically, I'm talking about controlling your marijuana smoke. I may not have the same appreciation for that pungent aroma that the smokers have come to know and love, but that does not mean that I need to be desensitized to the byproducts of your recreational drug use.
To be clear, there comes a point when one no longer wants to know that you're smoking pot all the way down at the end of the hall. What you put into your body is your business, but what you put into the air is everyone's business.
A friend of mine (who has asked to remain anonymous) has been grappling with the constant presence of pot smoke in her residence hall since the beginning of the semester.
At first, she made a sincere effort to ignore it: She closed her door and even resorted to opening her window on at least one occasion. I don't know if anyone remembers this, but the air temperature has been dipping below freezing for the past several nights. Given the choice, she would rather sacrifice all of the heat in her room than deal with the obnoxious stench of marijuana smoke. I would rather she not have to make that choice at all.
But the unfairness does not stop there. Even moderate exposures to the smoke cause her to feel nauseated and lightheaded, symptoms that her friends share when they come to visit her. She has trouble concentrating through the haze, which makes it nearly impossible for her to study or read in her own room. She has been forced to spend a few nights with friends in other residence halls. She claims the smoke is so dense that the smell of it is beginning to collect on her clothing and in her hair, a fact that some of her friends have begun to notice.
My friend spoke with her community assistant regarding the problem. The CA suggested that she confront the source of the smoke. This relatively straightforward approach has thus far resulted in little more than a few menacing leers in passing in the hallway.
Fortunately for her, an alternative housing option presented itself, which (in her mind) seems to be the only viable solution at this point. I can hardly blame her. If the smoke were as thick as she claims, I would seek out other living arrangements as well (preferably on a substance-free floor).
But what else can she do? Her CA was unable to solve the problem, and she's too afraid to confront the smoker again, let alone make a report to the Department of Public Safety or the Office of Residential Life. She just can't live there anymore.
Perhaps the question should not be, "what else can she do?" Rather, it should be, "what can the pot smokers do?" Obviously, they could open up a window. Sure, it's frigid out there, but cigarette smokers at Brown have been braving the winter cold to get their nicotine fix, thanks to the University-wide ban on smoking in residential and dining facilities. If cigarette smokers can venture out into arctic conditions to light up, surely the marijuana aficionados of Brown would be willing to crack a window? They could also shove damp towels under their doors to keep their precious smoke inside. That's really all it takes to keep a friend and hallmate comfortable and warm in her own room.
To the (approximately) 32 percent of Brown students who use marijuana, all I ask is that you exercise some kind of smoking etiquette when you get high. Don't let your smoke waft throughout your building. Take precautions to keep it contained in your room, or release it in some way that won't bother your fellow residents. And if you're politely asked to stop, please stop.
To the other 68 percent of Brown students, all I have to say is this: Thank you for not smoking.
Michael Fitzpatrick '12 is a psychology concentrator from San Antonio, Texas. He can be contacted at michael_fitzpatrick at brown.edu.