The University Senate Campus Affairs Committee is reviewing ways to align this university’s marijuana policy with state law after the Students for Sensible Drug Policy presented a petition yesterday showing student support for a new proposal.
The proposal, submitted by SSDP outreach coordinator Mikayla Hellwich, would protect students who have a doctor’s recommendation to use medical marijuana from university sanctions if they are found possessing marijuana on the campus.
The state already allows medical marijuana use with proof of a doctor’s recommendation. But on Monday, Gov. Martin O’Malley signed bills that will establish medical marijuana distribution programs in the state. The law will create 15 dispensaries, increasing medical marijuana patients’ access to the drug.
On this campus, however, any student found with marijuana — even if he or she has been prescribed it under state law — risks loss of campus housing and other sanctions.
“We believe that denying a student educational and housing opportunities because of the medicine that they are legally prescribed is effectively a form of discrimination,” said Hellwich, a senior horticulture and crop production major, in her statement to the committee.
The committee’s Student Government Association representative, Student Affairs Vice President Josh Ratner, said medical marijuana should be treated the same as other prescribed medications.
“I’m very adamant about making sure that just because it has a stigma because it was once illegal, that we shouldn’t be treating it like that because it’s a legitimate medication that has really changed the lives of a lot of people,” Ratner said.
The petition had 112 signatures. Members plan to get more throughout the committee’s review process, Hellwich said.
“I’m glad the students are actively involved and actively engaged in any and all issues with shared governance,” committee chairman Willie Brown said. “But that’s just another piece of information that we have to consider as we move down this path of coming together for a recommendation.”
The Senate Executive Committee received the SSDP proposal in November and charged the Campus Affairs Committee with reviewing it and sending an interim report by November. The senate will give a final recommendation for the proposal by March 2015.
While reviewing the proposal, the committee will consult representatives from the Office of Student Conduct, Office of Legal Affairs, Office of Faculty Affairs, University Health Center and University Human Resources. They will also review the state Senate bills, this university’s Code of Student Conduct and the policies in place at peer institutions such as Big Ten universities and schools in states with similar marijuana laws.
O’Malley also signed a bill Monday that removes criminal penalties for adults possessing less than 10 grams of marijuana.
Hellwich’s proposal involves only medicinal, not recreational, marijuana, but she said the decriminalization bill shows the state is moving in a “more progressive direction” regarding the drug.
As the committee reviews the proposal, Brown said members must consider not only state laws but also federal ones.
“The bottom line is what’s in the best interest of the university,” Brown said. “Marijuana is still illegal in federal law. The university has to abide by both federal and state laws. Whether it abides by the federal law or it tries to align its policies with its state law is something that we’re trying to figure out right now.”
In July, the university implemented a campuswide smoking ban, limiting cigarette use to four designated smoking areas.
The SSDP proposal does not aim to allow students to smoke marijuana in dorms or other places that would violate the smoking ban, Hellwich said. She noted several other methods of consuming marijuana, such as consuming edibles, using vaporizers, which don’t produce secondhand smoke, and drinking tinctures, which are concentrated THC extracts.
“It might take a little while and it may not be exactly what I want it to be, but it is definitely going to be a step in the right direction,” Hellwich said. “If it doesn’t work, I’ll keep fighting for it.”