College campuses have been a hotbed for marijuana use — as well as other drugs — since the late 1960s. Most schools have strict policies regarding illicit drug use. But what happens now that marijuana is no longer considered illicit by the state?
Officials with the California State University Chancellor’s Office said they plan to continue to observe federal law as it applies to marijuana use and possession.
California State University spokeswoman Toni Molle said if the system’s campuses fail to observe federal drug laws, it could jeopardize the federal funds they receive.
Molle’s office issued a statement saying federal law requires state schools to take “all reasonable measures” to prevent the use of illegal drugs on campuses.
“If we are unable to do so, we would lose eligibility for federal financial aid for our students as well as federal grants and contracts,” the statement said. “Drugs are defined under federal law to include marijuana (by way of the Controlled Substances Act).”
The statement went on to say, “CSU does not anticipate a change in policy. CSU will continue to deem marijuana as an illegal drug,” Molle said.
Some things still must be determined.
Cal State campuses are patrolled by state police officers. State police would likely not be able to cite students who are over 21 and possess a legal amount of cannabis under state law.
Joe Gutierrez, spokesman for Cal State San Bernardino, said “There is still a lot of uncertainty” as to what would happen if the law passes, but campus officials believe they would be able to enforce existing policies through their own internal government. He said officials do not plan to increase police personnel or patrols.
“If a student is found with a certain amount of marijuana, the officers will issue a (campus generated) judicial citation and refer it to the student conduct council,” Gutierrez said.
Sacramento attorney Richard Miadich, who wrote Proposition 64, said campus police also would be able to confiscate the drug. He said he consulted with governmental agencies during the drafting of the law to make sure that it did not jeopardize the federal standing of agencies such as public universities.
“One consistent attribute of this law is trying to preserve the ability of public and private employers to receive federal funds,” Miadich said. “They can continue to have a drug-free zone.”
He said the new law also will allow campuses to regulate private spaces such as student housing.
“With respect to college dorms, (Prop. 64) maintains existing laws,” he said. “Nothing in the initiative requires a public entity to allow cannabis on its premises.”
An Atlantic Monthly story from 2014 looked at the issue and the conundrum some schools were facing. It noted that in Colorado, a student 21 or older who possessed less than an ounce of marijuana while on campus might face a reprimand from the school, but could not be cited by police.
The same story noted that drug violations at the University of Colorado, Boulder, had actually dropped by half after marijuana was legalized. The author noted that the school had also taken more of an “instructive” approach, rather than a punitive one, in the wake of the new law.
So, the bottom line is, if you’re a student at a California public university planning to light up now that marijuana use is mostly legal, it might be wise to hold off.
This article was first published at PE.com.