NEW MARIJUANA LAW: Pot legalization no free ride to smoke on campus

Peninsula Daily News and news sources

Second of two parts

EDITOR'S NOTE: This report concludes a two-part series on the effects of the new marijuana-legalization law, which takes effect throughout Washington state this week.

Sunday's reports — including answers to frequently asked questions on legalized pot — can be accessed today on the PDN's website,

Young voters helped pass laws legalizing marijuana in Washington, but many still won't be able to light up.

Most colleges and universities have codes of conduct banning marijuana use, and the schools get millions of dollars in funding from a federal government that still considers pot illegal.

Along with the money comes a requirement for a drug-free campus — and the threat of expulsion for students using pot in the dorms.

“Everything we've seen is that nothing changes for us,” said Darin Watkins, a spokesman for Washington State University in Pullman.

So, despite college cultures that include pot-smoking demonstrations April 20 of each year, students who want to use marijuana will have to do so off campus.

That's true on community college campuses as well as universities.

The Nov. 6 passage of Initiative 502 means that as of this Thursday, it will no longer be illegal for a person 21 and older to possess an ounce of marijuana.

But it won't be allowed on the Peninsula College campus in Port Angeles and its branches in Forks and Port Townsend.

“Our policies regarding student conduct are unaffected by the passage of I-502,” said Jack Huls, Peninsula College vice president of student services.

Smoking or possessing marijuana on campus still will result in sanctions ranging from a warning to expulsion, depending on the circumstances and the results of a Peninsula College investigation into the matter, Hulls said.

The new state law is fraught with complications, especially at places like college campuses.

Even if conduct codes did not exist, marijuana remains illegal under federal law, another key reason that campuses will remain cannabis-free.

The Drug Free Schools and Communities Act requires that any college or university receiving federal funds adopt a program to prevent use of illicit drugs by students and employees, much in the same way other federal funding for law enforcement and transportation comes with clauses stipulating that recipients maintain drug-free workplaces.

“Some type of communication is going to come out from the university to clarify this,” said Angie Weiss, student lobbyist for the Associated Students of the University of Washington.

Derrick Skaug, student body vice president at Washington State, said he believes most students will understand they cannot consume marijuana on campus.

“I don't see it likely that people will be smoking marijuana while walking around campus,” Skaug said.

Last modified: December 03. 2012 10:25AM
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