As legislatures nationwide debate whether to legalize medical marijuana, colleges and universities in states where laws have been adopted say their campuses will remain drug-free.
The reason: Marijuana use and possession violates federal law, and colleges don't want to risk losing federal funding.
This year, 13 state legislatures are considering proposals to legalize medical marijuana, and four more are looking at bills, says Morgan Fox of the Marijuana Policy Project, a group that advocates loosening marijuana laws. Proposals to tighten or ease laws are pending in at least 10 of the 15 states, plus the District of Columbia, where medical marijuana is legal.
Colleges say they have no choice but to abide by the federal rules and keep marijuana off their campuses.
•In New Jersey, where a medical-marijuana law passed last year, Rutgers University declined an invitation by the governor to grow and research medical marijuana.
•In Arizona, where a law passed in November, University of Arizona lawyers in January posted a notice saying anyone found with marijuana on campus "will continue to be subject to disciplinary action."
•In San Diego, the City Council approved in January a proposal that medical-marijuana dispensaries be located at least 1,000 feet from college campuses. "Dispensaries are not compatible with our educational mission," San Diego State University President Stephen Weber said in a letter to the council urging a buffer zone.
•In Illinois, where a bill to help medical-marijuana users was introduced in January, students on two campuses have run into roadblocks as they seek to create advocacy groups for changing marijuana laws.
After a steady decline in marijuana use since 2003, the percentage of college students who said they had used marijuana in the previous month jumped from 17.9% in 2008 to 20.1% in 2009, says the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The survey doesn't tie the rise to medical-marijuana legalization, but "highlighting (marijuana) as some kind of medicine has sent a terrible message to young people," says Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Some activists see legalizing medical marijuana as part of a larger strategy to decriminalize the drug.
At the University of Arkansas, where the chancellor last fall rejected a proposal to ease penalties for marijuana-related violations, students are developing a state campaign to legalize medical marijuana. "We decided to focus our efforts where we could accomplish some real policy changes," says Robert Pfountz, a past president of the campus chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy.
Mary Beth Marklein
March 07, 2011
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