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Drugs In The Dorm

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
Freshman Sriram Prakash was standing outside of Package Services when an early snow fell Jan. 15. Handcuffs bound his arms behind his back.

Flanked by two Metropolitan Police Department officers wearing civilian clothing, Prakash was arrested on drug charges. The undercover officers had waited in Foggy Bottom until Prakash arrived at Package Services to retrieve a box filled with marijuana.

Each year, several students are arrested by MPD on charges of possession with intent to distribute marijuana. These arrests have become more prevalent on campus in recent years, according to police records obtained by The Hatchet under the D.C. Freedom of Information Act and University officials. Prakash is one of at least four students to be arrested this academic year on this type of drug charge.

Many of the students arrested by MPD on intent to distribute charges are evicted from University housing and expelled from GW. Rarely do these students serve any time in jail for their offenses, though many are on probation, according to police and court records obtained by The Hatchet.

Statistics for drug law arrests have fluctuated drastically in the past decade, but University officials said arrests for drug distribution are more prevalent this year.

"We have seen a rise in cases that involve distribution of drugs," said Tara Woolfson, director of Student Judicial Services, in an e-mail. "This is a significant concern for us. I can't speculate as to why we have seen an increase."

The highest number of annual arrests in the past decade was in 2002, when eight people were arrested on campus by MPD for drug distribution, according to University Police Department crime statistics. Statistics are erratic, dropping to zero arrests in 2003 and five in 2004 and 2005.

UPD Chief Dolores Stafford said statistics for this academic year will not be compiled until the summer. According to its crime log, UPD has made at least five drug arrests this year.

Arresting Distributors

Stafford said UPD does not actively seek marijuana users and instead reacts when they receive information.

"When we are patrolling the campus, if we find evidence that someone is smoking marijuana, we identify the source and take action," Stafford said.

All four students arrested on distribution charges this school year were processed at MPD's second precinct on Idaho Avenue, according to police reports.

Police were alerted to each case this year in a different way. Methods of discovery included a UPD radio call, the suspicion of marijuana while investigating a noise complaint, an anonymous tip to a community director and a sting operation.

Police and court documents detail drug paraphernalia which include Ziploc bags, digital scales and large amounts of cash. The amount of money found on the students ranged from $400 to $3,000.

Rarely do police incident reports document the amount of drugs found, though sometimes the reports give a vague idea. In sophomore Soweto Edwards' JBKO room, police reported finding half a pound of marijuana in two large bags. Other reports document how many bags were found, which ranged from four to 21.

Legal Sanctions

The maximum sentence for those convicted of intent to distribute in D.C. is 280 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Rarely do those convicted ever serve any jail time, said Benjamin Friedman, chief of the Misdemeanor Section at the U.S. Attorney's Office.

All four students this year pled guilty to various marijuana charges and received different levels of probation and community service, according to court documents. Three of the four students were sentenced under the Youth Rehabilitation Act, which gives individuals under the age of 22 an opportunity to serve a lesser sentence and often to expunge these offenses from their record.

Offenders can also either enter diversion programs with the U.S. Attorney's Office to have their case dismissed, if they have no previous convictions on drug charge, or have the offense removed from their record under a local statute, Friedman said.

Freshman Alexander Price, a former member of the men's polo team, pled guilty to possession this fall, but was not convicted of possession with intent to distribute, according to a court document.

The document states that Price was sentenced to one year of supervised probation including full drug testing, 100 hours of community service, a $1,000 fine and an essay due to the court upon completion of his probation. He must also maintain employment and schooling.

Having a good lawyer can make a difference, Friedman said.

Sophomore Isa Madyun, who was charged with intent to distribute after police said they found 21 bags of marijuana and $3,000 in cash in his room, pled guilty to marijuana distribution, according to court documents. Final sentencing for Madyun is scheduled for June 15.

The Hatchet reported Madyun was sentenced to 300 hours of community service rather than 45 days in jail - though he must serve 180 days in jail if he violates parole.

"You try to differentiate between youthful offenders, people who do stupid things when they're kids, and first-time offenders. You like to give these people breaks," Friedman said.

Edwards pled guilty to the lower charge of possession in return for dismissal of distribution charges, according to court documents. Edwards was sentenced to six months supervised probation but faces 100 days in jail if he violates probation, court documents state.

The varying levels of sanctions can be due to the amount of marijuana confiscated from the offender, Friedman said.

Prakash pled guilty on two charges: possession with intent to distribute and possession of drug paraphernalia, according to court documents. Documents state he was sentenced to supervised probation and 240 hours of community service.

Once records are expunged, court documents are put under seal and cannot be accessed, Friedman said.

Despite a FOIA request, MPD refused to provide The Hatchet with records older than the past year.

Woolfson, of SJS, previously told The Hatchet that the University's internal disciplinary actions are unaffeced by what happens in the courts. Students arrested by MPD for distribution charges must go through two parallel procccess, the D.C. criminal justice system and that of SJS.

News Hawk- User 420 MAGAZINE ® - Medical Marijuana Publication & Social Networking
Source: GW Hatchet
Author: Bryan Han
Contact: GW Hatchet
Copyright: 2007 Hatchet Publications, Inc.
Website: Drugs in the dorms: A look at marijuana arrests on campus - News
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