Best and worst from this week’s headlines

A new rehabilitation program for students facing alcohol and drug violations will offer a way out of punishment, while the Metropolitan Police Department is doubling down on arrests for marijuana use in public.

Here’s the best and worst news from around campus and the District this week.

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GW will soon offer a rehabilitation program for students with alcohol and other substance abuse problems.

Students facing alcohol and drug violations can enter into a University-sponsored rehabilitation program starting this fall. The program, called Pathways to Recovery, offers students an alternative to facing sanctions and disciplinary actions for alcohol and drug violations.

The program was spearheaded by Danielle Lico, the associate dean of students for student administrative services, and implemented by the Division of Student Affairs. It is targeted towards students who know they have an alcohol or drug problem, want to commit to recovery and don’t want to take time off from school, according to a University release.

Students facing high level sanctions from the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities are eligible to apply and need to devote a minimum of four months to the program. The program allows students to choose and create their own treatment plans for their individual needs. It also connects students in the program with adult mentors who are in long-term recovery and may be University faculty, staff, alumni or a District parent.

The recovery program is beneficial for students because it helps them tackle their substance abuse problems while continuing their education. The individualized nature and support system of the program will help foster recovery for students.

The goal of punishing students through sanctions or other disciplinary actions is to ensure they’re more careful, aware of the consequences of their actions and don’t repeat their mistakes. A rehabilitation program is more likely to achieve this goal than punishment.

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Arrests for public use of marijuana in the District nearly tripled over the last year.

The Metropolitan Police Department has arrested more than 400 people for public marijuana use in 2016, compared to 142 arrested in 2015. There was also a 200 percent increase in arrests for distribution of marijuana.

And the incidences continue to rise. From January to April 5 of this year, police have arrested 78 people for public consumption of marijuana and 79 people for distribution of the substance.

D.C. law states that residents are banned from using marijuana in public even though it was legalized for recreational use for adults in 2014. The increase in arrests are part of an effort to crack down on illegal sales of marijuana.

Legalization of marijuana has increased arrests of public consumption, and it has disproportionately affected low-income and minority populations, according to The Washington Post. Renters and people in public housing can’t benefit from marijuana legalization because the right to smoke marijuana is afforded only to homeowners. This exclusion is part of why arrests have increased — people don’t have an option and are forced to smoke outside. Also, many people don’t know that marijuana use isn’t allowed in public, contributing to the increase in arrests.

At a time when violent crime in D.C. has significantly decreased, stricter drug enforcement on minor offenses can do more harm than good. Rise in arrests for low level drug offenses suggest a return to over-policing, a policy that has historically failed to protect and serve communities of color.

Shwetha Srinivasan, a senior majoring in international affairs and economics, is The Hatchet’s contributing opinions editor.

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