BUZZKILL: Books to Bud

The bookstore will be replaced with a medical marijuana dispensary this spring as part of a collaborative student initiative

By Allison Tinsey

As reported in the Index earlier this quarter, the Kalamazoo College Bookstore is facing dwindling sales of textbooks as students turn to cheaper sources like Amazon to buy their books.

“It seems silly to even have a bookstore at a college our size,” Jeff Miller ‘14 said, one of the masterminds behind a new project that would make the bookstore lucrative once again.

“The bookstore should fulfill a need and students are not looking for books.”

Miller is the co-president of the Business and Economics Club at K who has teamed up with other groups to slowly integrate a medical marijuana dispensary into the bookstore. The dispensary would operate in the area currently occupied by unsold books that collect dust on the shelves each quarter. It would be staffed by work-study students and a new pharmacist hired by the College.

“It can be really difficult for students who do not have cars to access other local dispensaries to get the medication that they need,” said Emily Smith ’14, a Peer Health Advocate. “We want to ensure that students get their medication that meets CDC standards. They aren’t going to be able to find that with their friendly dealers.”

The major groups involved with the planning of this project include the Business and Economics Club, Peer Health Advocates, Student Commission, Students for a Sustainable Drug Policy (SSDP), Farms to K, DIRT, and EnvOrg.

Student Commission originally rejected the idea as an Innovation Fund project when President Camilleri deemed it as a larger issue that the College should be responsible for funding.

“Students’ health should not be the concern of the Student Activities Fee,” he said.

In a recent meeting with the Board of Trustees Camilleri brought up the dispensary idea, which was well received by the Board who appreciated the collaboration and extensive planning that has gone into this project. The project will have support from the Chemistry, Biology, Philosophy, Economics and Business, and Environmental Sciences departments.

“Farms to K, EnvOrg, and DIRT will be responsible for growing the many varieties of medicinal marijuana,” said Charlotte Steele ’14, an advocate for sustainable agriculture. “We want to make sure we over see the entire agricultural process from seed to spliff.”

“It will be sad to see the books go, but it will mean the bookstore is actually making money,” said Debbie Thompson, Director of the Bookstore. “We needed a new market to explore and this is the perfect time to do so.”

Along with fulfilling prescriptions, the Bookstore, which will now be referred to simply as ‘Kush,’ will have a large selection of ‘medical equipment’, much of which is brand compliant and imprinted with K logos. These items will be 20% off during the Bookstore’s quarterly sale.

“This isn’t about helping students get high, it’s about keeping people healthy using sustainable, economical, and alternative medical treatments,” said Lea Bonaparte ’15, President of the SSDP.

“As a user of medical marijuana, I needed a safe place to procure my prescription and I am really happy to see this happening at K,” said T.J. DeMarco ’16.

Students will have a small pot-leaf sticker to put on their ID cards to make it clear to security and RAs that they are allowed to have marijuana on campus. Students still cannot smoke in the dormitories, but an area of the Bookstore’s warehouse has been set aside and decorated with tapestries and comfy beanbags for students to use.

“In the long-term, this project will pay for itself,” Miller assured the Index.

The dispensary will be opened on April 1, 2014 and will be having a bake sale through the end of exam week to help raise funds for the project. They are also planning a Zoo After Dark event to correspond with 4/20 to help stamp out stigmas associated with medical marijuana use.

Buying Local: Bookstore

By Mallika Mitra


Does the popular K ideology behind buying local apply to the Kalamazoo College Bookstore?

Do you find it important to support local businesses? If you are a student at Kalamazoo College, you have probably been encouraged to support many of Kalamazoo’s local businesses. But do you support one of the local businesses right on campus: the Kalamazoo College Bookstore?

“I know that a lot of students on campus, especially (when it comes to) food, find that buying locally means a lot to them,” said Debbie Thompson, the Director of the Kalamazoo College Bookstore.

Despite the talk of supporting all things local, Thompson said the bookstore has actually seen a decrease in the amount of books being purchased in the past six years as more resources are becoming available for students to buy their books.

According to Thompson, the bookstore has about 475 titles on the shelf and sells at least 5,000 books per quarter and began renting out books four years ago. She said that about 175 titles qualify as rentals and the bookstore rents out almost 700 books per quarter. Students can save up to 60 percent by renting books, Thompson said.

The bookstore has had fewer students selling their books back to the bookstore at the end of the quarter. This, Thompson said, is because students often sell their books to one another. The bookstore buys back about 1,000 books at the end of every quarter.

For example, Thompson explained that the Nebraska Book Company buys books back from the Kalamazoo College bookstore that the bookstore no longer wants, and sell them to other colleges. The Nebraska Book Company also takes back rental books at the end of the quarter.

“There aren’t a lot of products out there that you can buy and know you can sells back,” Thompson said. She added that by having students sell books back to the bookstore, they are able to put more used books on the shelf, which saves money for the next student to buy that book.

The bookstore’s main competitor is Amazon, Thompson said. She added that she understands students are looking for “alternative, cheaper sources.”

“I have heard of other (college) bookstores getting rid of their books and changing their name from ‘bookstore’ to ‘campus store’,” Thompson said. “I don’t think that will happen here.”

Thompson went on to explain the benefits of buying from the college bookstore: it is more accessible to students, students know they are getting the books they want, and there are return privileges, such as being able to return books if you drop a class.

People are often willing to spend a few extra dollars on the local pluses of the Kalamazoo area, whether it be for food or the arts. Showing support for the bookstore may be more costly, but you know where the money is going. It is also, as Thompson puts it, “supporting our College.”