Thursday, November 29, 2012

University Guidelines Clash with Marijuana Legalization in Colorado and Washington

In this past November election, two states, Colorado and Washington, passed measures that legalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by any person over the age of twenty-one. Prior to the law taking effect, the states are attempting to create rules for the distribution of marijuana. Once the law does go into effect, these two states are expected to take in “tens or hundreds of millions of dollars a year, financial analysts say”, based on taxes and licensing regulations.

However, even without these regulations, it is already certain that college students in these states will not be able to benefit from the law many of them supported and helped pass. Even with the state laws in place, colleges and universities will continue to enforce their policies banning the use of drugs deemed illegal under federal law; in fact, many universities rely on federal funding they receive for complying with this policy. Dormitory contracts also tend to include provisions banning the use of illegal (under federal law) substances. Finally, college athletes will still have to comply with NCAA regulations. Among these regulations is the prohibition of the use of any substance deemed illegal under federal law.

Washington dealt with a similar issue in 1998 when the state approved the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Although the use of the marijuana, even for medicinal purposes, was banned on campus, Washington State “waived its requirement that all freshmen had to live in dorms to accommodate them”. Although these two states have legalized the (limited) use of marijuana, college students must still ensure they are aware of their campus’ policies or potentially face punishment and the possibility of expulsion. The interaction of the state law with the obligations of the universities based on federal funding creates uncertainty and confusion in what can and cannot be done, and where and where it cannot be done.

As Washington and Colorado are the first two states to deal with such issues, it is certain that even more issues and confusion will have to be dealt with and information will need to be communicated to the states’ citizens to ensure proper compliance and enforcement.

More information can be found at the Dayton Daily News Website.