University Police officers will no longer be able to confiscate hookahs without reasonable suspicion of drug use, after GW recently clarified its policy regarding the water pipes. Student Judicial Services last month clarified its policy following complaints by a student.
The policy states that “students may possess and/or use hookahs in University-owned and controlled properties as long as the hookah is being used with tobacco products,” said SJS Assistant Director Michael Gieseke.
Gieseke said previous difficulties surrounding the policy stemmed from UPD’s practice of confiscating hookahs without telling students they could get them back if the pipes tested negative for marijuana. Hookahs are water pipes originating from the Middle East that can be used to smoke tobacco or marijuana.
The policy before clarifications was not as straightforward, sophomore Tim Kaldas said. Kaldas wrote an opinion piece in The Hatchet last month complaining that GW was reluctant to explain its policy after UPD confiscated his hookah.
“UPD informed me that I could not take the hookah back to my room because I was not permitted to have it on campus,” he said. “This was a bit different from what they told me when they took it.”
Gieseke said he had a “productive” discussion with Kaldas after the incident.
“Since that conversation, we have taken steps to make sure all University officials have a clear understanding of the policy,” Gieseke said. “In addition, my office is developing outreach programs for students living in the halls.”
But he said UPD would continue to test hookahs for marijuana when they believe it is necessary.
“While a hookah’s primary purpose is to smoke tobacco, the University has also witnessed students using them to smoke illegal substances,” Gieseke said. “University policy states any item that can be used as paraphernalia will be confiscated and tested during an administrative search.”
The policy makes clear that UPD is unable to confiscate a hookah without reasonable suspicion of drug use.
“Students’ rooms will not be administratively searched solely on the basis of a student owning a hookah,” Gieseke said.
Kaldas said he is content with the rule’s clarification, which took place last month.
“The policy is now what it should be,” he said.
UPD Chief Dolores Stafford said she was unaware of policy changes but said there have been several instances in which students have used hookahs to smoke marijuana.
Several D.C universities have a hookah policy similar to GW’s.
While Georgetown University has no specific rules regarding the possession of a hookah in a dorm room, if a pipe is used to smoke drugs, students face penalties ranging from fines to suspension.
Stafford, a campus crime expert and president of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, said there has not been a discussion about universities’ hookah policy on a national level.
-Rachel Zavala contributed to this report.