By Greg Hudson, Joe Yachimec and Jessica Ford
When it comes to cocaine, everyone is an expert. Only it seems like none of the experts agree.
The first time Rosalyn tried cocaine she got it from her roommate. They shared half a gram and stayed up all night in their dorm, talking and feeling amazing for no reason. Although she had been curious, she was unsurprisingly wary.
“It’s funny,” she says, “Because if I was so goddamned nervous, why did I do it?”
The next time she did it, she used it to enhance her studies. It helped her focus when she needed to stay up all night studying for exams. And the thing is, it helped. Her marks in first year were stellar. Though she doesn’t do coke anymore, she attributes her scholastic performance to cocaine.
She didn’t start using it to party until school was out for the summer, when she didn’t have any assignments and deadline that required extra attention.
By her second year, cocaine was how she balanced school with heavy partying. It was also costing hundreds of dollars a week.
“Financially it’s ridiculous,” Rosalyn says.
“It’s definitely for kids with money, and I’m not a kid with money so I don’t really know what I was doing in those circles.”
Cocaine found Rosalyn. But according to her it has found a lot of students at Ryerson. Most of the kids in her program do coke, she says, its more unusual that she doesn’t do it.
“In all my years bartending in downtown Toronto, in the past two years, I have never seen coke used more in my life,” says Adrian Cavan, who has slung drinks at Mick E. Fynn’s for the past eight years. These are Ryerson students, he says, kids in their twenties, doing more blow than he remembers seeing in the eighties.
“You can tell when they are on it,” he says, “And it’s a shame because they all think they are original, but this is so been there done that. But it’s like, buy a fucking RSP, pay off a student loan, tip me bigger,” Cavan says.
Talking to Rosalyn you get the sense that cocaine is everywhere, like students are attending classes during the last days of disco. And maybe it is.
Last week a 16 year old kid was thrown out of a party held at the Student Centre by Ryerson security when he was caught with cocaine. that incident sprang from a private function, not associated with Ryerson. The minor was at a dry party when he was found by a bouncer in the bathroom with the drug and promptly escorted out.
Still, others paint a different picture.
“I can tell you right now cocaine’s not that easy to get on campus,” one student says, “It’s not the campus drug in Toronto.” And it isn’t something this student deals. He just sells dope. He says he knew some people that might sell nose candy, but he isn’t about to give their numbers to a reporter.
Chazz Dey, a yellow-clad police officer waiting amidst three other Toronto Police Service bicycles works the beat that includes Ryerson campus. He speaks only from his experience, and not the official statistics of the TPS.
Dey says that when he is called to campus, it is rarely for cocaine or other hard drugs, that goes for dealing and using. “If anything, we see kids still experimenting with rave drugs,”he says. Oh, and drinking. He says he’s called to campus mostly for alcohol poisoning.
The security bigwigs on campus seem to see things the same way. Lawrence Robinson, director of security services, says he hasn’t seen evidence of a drug problem at Ryerson, and he isn’t about to probe into one without a cause.
Meanwhile, according to one bouncer at the Ram, kicking students out for cocaine use is a regular occurrence.
But here again, we have a discrepancy, two experts disagreeing. Though confirming the incident with the 16 year old kid, Craig Stewart Anderson, a manager at the Ram, says he has never really seen cocaine or any hard drugs used at the pub. “People here are very very well behaved. There might be an underground problem, but they don’t come here,” he says.
The picture that starts to develop is ambiguous at best, especially when you consider the subject matter and the sources. It’s easy to imagine campus security, Ryerson staff and Toronto Police down playing drug activity on campus, not wanting to look bad. Then again, it’s just as easy to see the fun in embellishing the coke scene in order to glamorize campus life.
After all, our campus is surrounded by bright lights, in a big city. – GREG HUDSON
It’s maybe three in the morning, and you are an idiot. Like usual, you’ve procrastinated for over a month, and barring time travel, there’s now no possible way you’ll finish this assignment on time. Your professor is a war veteran, and doesn’t accept late papers or excuses of any kind. Unless you can, in five hours, manage to read 175 pages of a book called Sexual Deviancy in Porcupines and filter those 175 pages into roughly 2000 coherent words, you are totally boned. This is where the drugs come in.
You message your friend Twitchy, who lives a floor below you. Twitchy has ADHD. Twitchy was prescribed a bushel of pharmaceuticals to make him sit down and stop waving his arms around. You offer him money for a few. He says yeah. Thirty minutes, two little orange pills and four glasses of water later, you are a machine. Methylphenidate (Twitchy says “Ritalin”), or maybe Adderall (Twitchy says “Amphetamines”), have grabbed the tubes of your brain, blown into them, and twisted them into a balloon animal. This balloon animal really, really likes doing your homework.
You are done in three hours. You feel great. You throw up in the bathroom. Then you clean your room. You clean it again, for good measure. Your body is numb and tingly. Your teeth buzz like 40-watt bulbs. You brush them three times.
Then, inevitably, you crash.
That’s about the way it went for me, anyway. The high was empowering and energetic – I was in control, and time seemed to slow as I devoured page after page of bone-dry Victorian short fiction. Withdrawal was like being coated in cold glass. It made me feel lonely, architectural, as if I were structurally different than the people around me. I was exhausted, but I was too wired to sleep.
Countless university students, including myself, have taken study drugs. We didn’t want to get high (or just to get high), we wanted to get stuff done. And we did. That’s what’s kind of scary about Ritalin and Adderall. They don’t make you smarter, but they do focus you – they work. They’re also addictive, and they’re both Schedule III drugs under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which means that possessing them without a prescription can land you in jail for up to three years.
If you are a moralizing agent, terrified at the idea of your fellow students bringing down plagues of drug dealers upon our simple school, you don’t have much to fear. No-one is lurching around Ryerson, pills rattling like maracas under filthy trench-coats. Because pharmaceuticals are very difficult to synthesize and very difficult to obtain off-prescription, most dealers don’t carry them.
“I was in [the gifted program], and I knew a lot of kids who had attention problems,” said one third-year RTA student. “There was a friend of mine, who has ADHD, and he was talking about it one day. I was like, ‘can I try it?’ and he said ‘sure, no problem.'”
For the average student, this is the only way that they can get a hold of study drugs – though there are plenty of students who can find you other things. – JOE YACHIMEC
The quad is clear and open, it is almost calm. Students and professors tread through the autumn leaves – just like you see in the movies. But despite all this, three girls are smoking pot.
As casually as a cigarette, they smoke a joint as their day wraps up, something they do often.
One of the girls, Sara, says that if someone wanted to start smoking pot on campus it would be pretty easy. “You just have to walk around and smell.”
Lyle, a commuter student agrees. “If you trip on campus, you’re probably tripping over someone smoking pot.”
Sara says they get hassled by Ryerson security all of the time but never see police officers around.
“They ask if you go to this school and to see your I.D. We just walk away. Students need to know their rights with security – you don’t have to stay,” she said.
Even the drug dealers aren’t nervous. Jack sells pot on campus and is never afraid of getting caught by security when he deals.
“I’m not scared of getting caught because I look like an average student. I keep it in a mason jar so there is no way they’d be able to smell it,” Jack says.
“I’ve stood next to a police officer with $1000 worth of pot on me.”
Sara also said that if you aren’t a student, security bans you from campus; and if you do stick around as a student, you have to fill out a report. Julia Lewis, director of safety and security, says that they deal with marijuana on a case-by-case basis and that security assesses the punishment on whether or not the person is posing harm to the community.
The Ryerson Student Code of Non-Academic Conduct states that students must obey the federal and provincial laws regarding illegal drugs. Despite misconceptions, marijuana is still illegal. In 2003 the Ontario Supreme Court decriminalized marijuana after deeming the law unconstitutional.
But don’t jump too quickly to puff your blunt in the face of a cop. The law was put on the books not too long after. The conduct’s punishments are vague, from written apologies to being banned from campus.
Campus security wouldn’t comment on whether they try to stop students smoking pot on campus.
As for residence, anyone reported with drugs is at risk of being kicked out of residence, or at least a heavy handed scolding. Marcus, a residence student, says he’s smoked pot in a friend’s residence room and got away with it. But the friend got caught on another occasion.
He is one of four students gathered behind the Sears building, ten steps off of campus. This place is a pot smoking refuge passed through generations of first-years.
The building towers behind them as they huddle in a small annex. In residence, there is a strict no-drug policy but pot culture still prospers.
Ryan, another student in the group interjects in the conversation. He says that the network inside of residence makes it easy to access pot. “In the first week I knew someone who could get me pot and I told someone else,” Ryan said.
“The next day some guy who I didn’t even know came up to me and said ‘I hear you can hook me up with some pot.'”
The group debates about the popularity of pot in residence and come up with no consensus. Some of them say that almost everyone on their floors smoke but one girl says it is less than she expected.
But Ryan says something that isn’t an uncommon opinion. “I put marijuana in the same category as tobacco and alcohol and all other illegal substances in a whole other category.” – JESSICA FORD