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Celebrating “4/20” At Reed

Reed students celebrate 4/20 with doughnuts.

Reedies were out in force in the student union on Saturday, April 20, which has become—for better or worse—an international day of inhalation among cannabis enthusiasts.

Tradition calls for pot smokers to light up their joints at exactly 4:20 p.m., but hundreds of Reed students instead observed the moment by munching on free donuts. As the clock ticked down to 4:20 p.m., the SU was filled not with the skunky odor of marijuana, but with students eagerly anticipating their chance to partake of a communal feast on torus-shaped pastry. And it was all courtesy of the man who has become the most public face of Reed’s policy on alcohol and other drugs (AOD)—Gary Granger, director of community safety.

4/20 (the term dates back to the 1970s in northern California) has put campuses across the country in the awkward position of either turning a blind eye or cracking the whip. This year, administrators at UC Santa Cruz decided that it wasn't worth the trouble to stop hundreds of students from smoking in a campus meadow (although school police monitored the event). At the other end of the spectrum, UC Boulder tried to quell the delirium by deploying riot police and spreading a fishy-smelling fertilizer to keep pot-smoking students away from the quad (hundreds of them simply lit up at another location).

Reed has found a more creative way to approach 4/20. "Basically," Granger said, "we're taking an event that used to be a source of conflict and turning it on its head." 

For the past three years, Granger and his staff have marked 4/20 with a giveaway of hundreds of sugary delights from Voodoo Donuts, featuring a maple-frosted confection shaped like a giant joint, called the Maple Blazer Blunt.

Reed enforces its AOD policies the same on April 20 as any other day, Granger said. Instead of fighting the bacchanalian spirit, he has tried to channel it in a more productive direction. "What this does is create a more positive vibe, rather than taking a more hostile approach to the day,” said student body president Ari Galper ’14 said as he joined the crowd of peckish students.

Granger was hired in 2010 following the drug-related death of a student. His mandate was not to enact new rules and regulations, but to enforce more consistently the rules already on the books. This new way of conducting business provoked some student discontent, much of it directed at Granger. "There was some consternation," Granger said, that culminated in a mocking flyer posted around campus showing him hoisting a giant joint and urging students to "Smoke a Blunt with Gary."

Granger saw the point of the satire, but he also saw an opportunity. The following spring, he made a pilgrimage to the SU—traditionally the hub of 4/20-related activities—and held the first giveaway, advertising it with a flyer showing him with one of the aforementioned Maple Blazer Blunt donuts and calling on students to "Eat a Blunt with Gary."

"That really was a turning point" in his relations with students, Granger said. The 4/20 event has grown bigger every year. This spring, students consumed more than 800 donuts.

Reed pursues a three-pronged approach to AOD. First and foremost comes prevention and education. Next comes therapeutic support for students who struggle with AOD-related issues. Finally, there is consistent enforcement of the AOD policy.

Mike Brody, dean of students, and other staff members from student services and community safety were on hand at the SU to pass out donuts. Because opinions about drug use can divide a campus, he was happy to see an event bringing students together. "If nothing else, this is a gesture of good faith and community."

Eli Rau ’15 and Enrique Montygierd ’14 were among the first students to show up to the SU. Although they were not personally participating in 4/20 activities, they appreciated the college's efforts to reach out to students. "Some students have very strong opinions (about Granger)," Montygierd said, "but the majority of people understand he's just doing his job."

"I like anyone," Rau chimed in, "who gives away free donuts."

When the magic moment arrived, Granger called out, "Happy 4/20!" and threw open the boxes. And as the scrum of students rushed up, several distinct cries of "Thanks, Gary!" could be heard in the happy, hungry crowd.

See more images and read more about safety issues at Reed on Gary Granger's Community Safety blog.

Tags: student life, AOD, doughnuts