Young voters helped pass laws legalizing marijuana in Washington and Colorado, but many still won't be allowed to light up. Most universities have codes...
Young voters helped pass laws legalizing marijuana in Washington and Colorado, but many still won’t be allowed to light up.
Most universities have codes of conduct banning marijuana use, and they get millions of dollars in funding from the federal government, which still considers pot illegal.
With the money comes a requirement for a drug-free campus, and the threat of expulsion for students using pot in the dorms.
“Everything we’ve seen is that nothing changes for us,” said Darin Watkins, a spokesman for Washington State University in Pullman.
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So despite college cultures that include pot-smoking demonstrations each year on April 20, students who want to use marijuana will have to do so off campus.
“The first thing you think of when you think of legalized marijuana is college students smoking it,” said Anna Marum, a WSU senior from Kelso. “It’s ironic that all 21-year-olds in Washington can smoke marijuana except for college students.”
Voters in November made Washington and Colorado the first states to allow adults over 21 to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, and exit polling showed both measures had significant support from younger people.
Taxes could bring the states, which can set up licensing schemes for pot growers, processors and retail stores, tens or hundreds of millions of dollars a year, financial analysts say.
But the laws are fraught with complications, especially at places like college campuses.
At WSU, students who violate the code face a variety of punishments, up to expulsion, Watkins said. The same is true at the University of Colorado in Boulder, where the student code of conduct prohibits possessing, cultivating or consuming illegal drugs.
“If you possess marijuana and are over 21, you still may face discipline under the student code of conduct,” University of Colorado police spokesman Ryan Huff said.
Gary Gasseling, deputy chief of the Eastern Washington University Police Department, said that while the university awaits guidance from the state Liquor Control Board, which is creating rules to govern pot, one thing is clear.
“The drug-free environment is going to remain in place,” he said.
Even if conduct codes did not exist, marijuana remains illegal under federal law, another key reason that campuses will stay pot-free.
The Drug Free Schools and Communities Act requires that any university receiving federal funds adopt a program to prevent the use of illicit drugs by students and employees, much in the same way other federal funding for law enforcement and transportation comes with clauses stipulating that recipients maintain drug-free workplaces.
WSU, for instance, receives millions in federal research funds each year, which prohibits it from allowing substances illegal under federal law on campus.
College dormitory contracts also tend to prohibit the possession of drugs, officials said. Dorms and other campus buildings also tend to be smoke-free zones, which would block the smoking of marijuana, officials said. In addition, NCAA rules prohibit student-athletes from consuming marijuana or other illegal drugs.
With all these complications, it is reasonable to expect that some students will be confused by the new laws.
“Some type of communication is going to come out from the university to clarify this,” said Angie Weiss, student lobbyist for the Associated Students of the University of Washington.
Derrick Skaug, student body vice president at WSU, said he believes most students will understand they cannot consume marijuana on campus.
“I don’t see it likely that people will be smoking marijuana while walking around campus,” Skaug said. “Most people do understand that just because it is no longer banned by state law, it doesn’t amount to a get-out-of-jail-free pass.”