Twenty-four years ago this semester, I was taking Law 402 class. One day some Criminal Investigation Division types came in with some pot and an ashtray. They lit the marijuana in the ashtray and passed it around so each of us could take a whiff; this they called a "controlled burn", the purpose of which was to let us know what marijuana smelled like. This way, if we ever smelled that smell in our troops' barracks, by virtue of having smelled marijuana in this controlled environment we would have probable cause to search a room for pot.
Recently at school I was walking down a hallway near my classroom and that memory of 24 years ago assaulted me--how could it not? The stench of pot was so heavy that I worried about getting a contact high, and I wasn't even in Kokomo. A couple of boys told me it was even worse in one of the bathrooms.
Our email system was down, but an hour or so later it came up and I sent a message to the vice principals about the smell. Honestly, I didn't think there was anything they would or could do, but I felt compelled to notify them anyway. One vice principal picked up the ball and ran with it. Here's how.
See, in the past we have had expensive incidents of graffiti and other forms of vandalism at our school, especially in the bathrooms. A few years ago we put some security cameras around campus, and many of them allow a view of the entrances of the most-hit bathrooms. It turns out that one of those bathrooms was, coincidentally enough, the bathroom with the heavy pot smell. The vice principal in question watched the video from the appropriate camera and identified a couple of students whose behavior and/or time in the restroom was questionable. Though I'm not privy to what happened next, and something did happen next, somehow "reasonable suspicion", the legal standard used in California schools, was met and the two students were brought to the office. Both had marijuana in their backpacks.
Twenty-four years later, my controlled burn pays off.