How medical marijuana affects college students

Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have legalized the use of medical marijuana for adults. Meanwhile, Colorado and Washington have legalized marijuana for adult recreational use. The rules around cannabis are definitely changing in the United States.

The rules for medical marijuana on college campuses may differ from those of the state. (Credit: Trey Sanchez)

The rules for medical marijuana on college campuses may differ from those of the state. (Credit: Trey Sanchez)

Although the legalization of pot has been big news around the country, just because pot is legal in a state, for medical purposes or recreational, doesn’t make it legal on college campuses. What is the status of medical marijuana usage on college campuses then?

Medical marijuana and federal funding

The bind for colleges and universities across America comes down to money. Even if a state allows the use of medical marijuana, or if pot is legal in that state, institutions of higher learning are afraid of violating the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act, as well as the Drug Free Workplace Act. Susan Sharon posted on May 24, 2012, for NPR “Medical Marijuana 101: You Can’t Smoke That on Campus” about the dilemma the schools and their adult students are facing.

Sharon quoted Jill Creighton of the University of Colorado, Denver, who explained, “Some student codes of conduct are much more lax about marijuana use in general, but the assumption is if we were to allow medical marijuana on our campuses, we would then be jeopardizing our Title 4 funding.” And with millions of dollars at stake, no college or university is willing to risk it.

A growing problem

Unfortunately for college campuses, the problem is only going to get worse for them with the increasing legalization of pot and the rise in medical marijuana usage.

According to Medical News Today in “Medical marijuana – where does the debate stand now?” posted on July 24, 2014, legislation is pending in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania to legalize medical marijuana usage. If it passes, that would mean that more than half of the country allows some form of legal marijuana use by adults. Despite the fact that the use of cannabis to treat pain and illness dates back to 2,900 B.C., according to the article, the U.S. has been averse to the concept of medical marijuana historically.

However, the article stated, “In 1991, 53% of surveyed oncologists supported making marijuana available by prescription, and in 1993, the American Medical Student Association unanimously endorsed the rescheduling of marijuana.” The medical community’s interest in making marijuana available to their patients turned the tide in the conversation about the legalization of pot.

Golden State struggles

Even California, an early adopter of legalized medical marijuana, struggles with the issue of cannabis on college campuses. Cody Drabble wrote about the issue in “Should adult students be allowed to use medical marijuana at California colleges?” for on October 3, 2013. Drabble cited a Sacramento City College public-information officer, Amanda Davis, who explained that even students with a legally valid medical-cannabis card won’t get a break from the local police department if they are caught with pot on their college campuses.

In addition, Drabble quoted Morgan Fox, communications manager for the Marijuana Policy Project, who explained that some schools have “accommodated students by waiving requirements to live on campus and permitting them to carry their medical cannabis, so long as they don’t smoke on school grounds.”

Despite the increasing number of states that allow medical marijuana usage, the lack of development in terms of federal laws is leaving college campuses in the lurch. But the legalization of pot is an evolving issue, and the conflict for universities may soon be solved as more and more people advocate for the legalization of pot.

Do you think that medical marijuana should be allowed on college campuses in states where pot is legal? Let us know in the comments.

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