Fort Lewis College will no longer allow students to smoke or possess medical marijuana on campus.
The change came about Monday after The Durango Herald published a front-page story mentioning that FLC allows students with medical marijuana licenses to smoke on campus but not in dorm rooms.
Since then, FLC spokesman Mitch Davis said, circumstances have changed.
The article “inspired a great deal of discussion on campus," he said, and several department heads decided to enact a specific policy with regard to medical marijuana.
“Really, there was just confusion over whether there was an exception for medical marijuana or not," Davis said.
Ultimately, administrators decided to forbid the use or possession of medical marijuana on campus and to treat it no differently than alcohol and other drugs, Davis said.
College officials may revisit the policy at a later date, he said, but they wanted a steadfast policy in place until then. An e-mail went out to students Monday notifying them of the new policy.
Monday's story focused mostly on a student group called SAFER FLC that is working to make marijuana offenses similar to alcohol offenses when it comes to disciplinary sanctions on campus. Marijuana offenses are currently handled on a case-by-case basis, but they are generally considered more serious than alcohol violations because marijuana is an illegal substance for people without a medical license to use it.
The college has not changed its disciplinary guidelines with regard to alcohol and drug use, Davis said. But he encouraged SAFER to bring forth a petition raising its concerns.
SAFER member and FLC senior Marissa Williams said she plans to start a petition in January.
“I'm really impressed by the SAFER group and Mrs. Williams for doing this legwork," Davis said. “Really, this is what we try to instill in our students. If they see something out there that they want to change, they should work to do that. I applaud their effort. I am impressed."
In an interview Tuesday, Williams said her main focus is making sure the penalty for smoking pot is similar to drinking alcohol.
If the college is going to forbid the use of medical marijuana, it should consider creating a safe and private place on campus where students can medicate, she said. The college is constructing a new student union building that will include a bar; perhaps it should include a lounge for students to smoke medical marijuana, she said.
“If they have a card for it, they should be able to use it when they need it," Williams said.
David Knaisch, a senior with a medical marijuana card, said he has never been allowed to smoke marijuana on campus.
He is upset that Davis said differently in the previous article. If students had taken his advice, they could have been arrested or kicked out of college, he said.
Knaisch, who has lived in the dorms for three years, said he obtained a license to possess marijuana three years ago to treat irritable bowel syndrome and migraines.
Forcing students to leave campus to medicate doesn't make sense, he said, because they are then put in a bad spot of having to drive while high to return to campus.
What's more, medical marijuana patients are supposed to medicate in the privacy of their homes, he said.
Knaisch said he understands that smoking marijuana in dorm rooms presents a fire danger and could trigger smoke detectors, but there are other ways to consume pot, including with a vaporizer or in edible form. These forms of consumption should be allowed on campus, he said.
“If they allowed us to eat it and only have eatables on campus, I would appreciate that," Knaisch said. “Any other medicine they don't discriminate against, so why are they discriminating against this?"
by Shane Benjamin
December 17, 2009