Medical Marijuana: Campus Policies and the Law
As of November 2011, 16 states and the District of
Columbia had legalized the medical use of marijuana, allowing people with
medical authorization to possess small amounts of cannabis; in some cases,
these people are also allowed to grow it. (Procon.org maintains a current list
states.) Six more states had medical-marijuana legislation pending.
At the same time, however, marijuana remains a Schedule I
controlled substance under federal law. The United States Department of Justice
has not presented a clear or consistent enforcement policy for situations where
medical use of marijuana is legal under state or local law.
This conflict puts colleges in a uniquely uncomfortable
position. Many colleges are state institutions; since they receive federal
funds, though, they may have to adhere to state and federal laws. The marijuana policy at California State
University at Bakersfield recognizes both state and federal laws; it prohibits
marijuana possession and use on campus due to federal regulations.
Rather than giving up its campus marijuana ban in the
face of the state’s very liberal medical marijuana laws, The University of
Colorado at Boulder created an exception to its rule barring first-year
students from living off-campus. Responding to the threat of a lawsuit from a
student who held a medical marijuana card, UC Boulder decided first-year
students who were marijuana cardholders could live off campus—preserving
students’ rights to medical marijuana, but also preserving the school’s cannabis-free
Setting Drug Policies in the Age of Medical Marijuana
Because the situation under state and federal laws is in
flux, all schools need to address the issue of medical marijuana explicitly. Communications
about drug use, residence life, and health services should clearly state
whether marijuana is allowed on campus for medical use, and whether students
who use marijuana off-campus for medical reasons are violating the school’s
drug policy. While this issue is being resolved on the federal and state level,
you may benefit from establishing an ongoing task force to set up or update your
college’s medical marijuana policy.
When school policies change—especially if they become
more restrictive, or if they’re more restrictive than local laws—be sure to
notify everyone in the college community. Use both social and traditional media
to get the message out. Don’t forget to notify parents, too.
While some state laws allow the use of marijuana only for
medical purposes, other state and local regulations decriminalize the
possession and use of cannabis, regardless of purpose. Decriminalization
typically makes marijuana possession an offense that’s punished by a civil fine
rather than jail time. In some places, law enforcement is directed to give cannabis offenses a low priority.
of marijuana possession and use presents fewer conflicts to resolve in setting
college drug policy. Since there is no claim of medical need, schools don’t
have to accommodate users for compassionate or health reasons. Decriminalization
does not make marijuana legal, however: it just reduces the legal consequences.
College policies that cover illegal activity, health risks, and intoxication still
still the most widely used drug (after alcohol) among high school students,
including those students bound for college. Undergraduates matriculating in a
state or locality that has decriminalized marijuana, or that allows medical marijuana
use, need to know that cannabis is still illegal—and like that most popular of legal drugs, alcohol,
it carries other risks. Your alcohol and drug abuse prevention program needs to
cover the dangers of cannabis, legal and otherwise, even where its use may be
decriminalized. MyStudentBody Essentials
is one such prevention education course that covers both alcohol and drugs,
California State University. (2011). CSUB Alcohol and
Illicit Drug Policy. Retrieved November 30, 2011, from http://www.csub.edu/alcoholed/csubpolicy.shtml
Hamilton College. (2011). Student handbook: Alcohol and
Illegal Drug Policy. Retrieved November 30, 2011, from http://www.hamilton.edu/college/student_handbook/drugpolicy.html
Office of Applied Studies, Substance Abuse and Mental
Health Services Administration. (2005, June 24). DASIS Report Series,
Differences in Marijuana Admissions Based on Source of Referral: 2002.
Retrieved March 31, 2009, from http://oas.samhsa.gov/2k5/MJreferrals/MJreferrals.pdf
ProCon.org. (2011). 16 Legal Medical Marijuana States and
DC: Laws, Fees, and Possession Limits. Retrieved November 30, 2011, from http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/viewresource.asp?resourceID=000881
Sherry A. (2008, September 20). Student fights
CU over hazy marijuana law. Denver Post. Retrieved November 30, 2011, from http://www.denverpost.com/education/ci_10519236 Back To Home