Photo: Flickr / Wiros
Social media is abuzz with future college students dreaming of doing bong hits openly on the greens of universities in Colorado and Washington state. But those dreams may go up in smoke.”If someone thinks they are going to walk around campus smoking a joint, it’s not going to happen,” University of Washington spokesman Norman Arkans says.
Although voters in Colorado and Washington approved the legalization of marijuana, officials aren’t expecting cannabis-welcoming changes in campus policy.
The federal government still considers marijuana illegal, and universities don’t want to risk their federal funding for research or student financial aid.
“We don’t see that it will change our policies very much,” Arkans says. “We get caught in the vice between the state law and our obligations under the federal government. While it may be legal two blocks off campus, it will be illegal under federal law, so it will be illegal on campus.”
Even the University of Colorado-Boulder, which tops Princeton Review’s list of “Reefer Madness” schools, doesn’t expect a change in policy anytime soon.
“We have a lot of sorting out to do,” says University of Colorado-Boulder spokesman Bronson Hilliard. The Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act puts the university at risk for all of its federal funding if they knowingly and willingly allow illegal substance use on campus.
“Now the question is, ‘Is that a federal definition or a state definition of illegal?'” Hilliard says. “We are already sorting through it now, but it’s complex and it’s going to take time.”
Other universities, including the University of Denver and The Evergreen State College, are waiting to hear from lawyers and the government on how the ruling will affect them. University of Denver spokeswoman Kim DeVigil says it’s too soon to know how the school will handle the passage of the amendment.
Under the Colorado and Washington laws, personal possession of up to an ounce of marijuana would be legal for anyone 21 and older. Cannabis would be sold and taxed at state-licensed stores. In Colorado, a person could have up to six marijuana plants, but “grow-your-own” pot would still be banned in Washington. Both states prohibit public use.
“You won’t see a big influx of people who just want to go to school in these states just because they want to party. They already can go party,” court qualified cannabis expert Chris Conrad says. “The age limit is 21, so until they are 21 it will not make a huge difference no matter what campus they are on.”
Craig Hirokawa, a University of Denver senior, voted against legalizing marijuana in Colorado. “What sort of message are we sending if we’re using pot money to fund education?” the political science major says.
Hirokawa, 22, of Parker, Colo., says he doesn’t think the new law will lead to an influx of drug users enrolling in the school. “They would have to wait three years to be able to smoke,” he says, referring to the fact that people must be 21 to possess pot.
His opposition may be in the minority on campus. At a university election-watch party Hirokawa attended Tuesday, most students seemed happy with the results, he says.
“I find it difficult to believe that universities are all of the sudden going to cannabis-friendly coffee shops on campus,” says Chris Simunek, editor-in-chief of High Times magazine, which advocates the legalization of marijuana. “I think for universities it is going to be best for them to look the other way, like they have been doing for years.”
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