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Marijuana illegal on campus despite Amendment 64

Published: Monday, February 25, 2013

Updated: Monday, February 25, 2013 00:02


Photo by Alex Gradisher

A UCCS student smoked a bowl of marijuana in his room.

     Gov. Hickenlooper signed an executive order on Dec. 10, 2012, making controlled home-growing, personal use and possession of marijuana legal in Colorado.

     Marijuana continues to be illegal on campus, however. Steve Linhart, dean of students and director of judicial affairs, sent an email Jan. 30 notifying students of the university’s unchanged position on Amendment 64.

     The email reads, “… on all University of Colorado campuses, to include the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, possession and/or use of marijuana remains prohibited.”

     Colorado institutions of higher learning ban marijuana on college campuses. “I wanted to make sure that students understood that it was still illegal,” Linhart said.

     “Because even despite Amendment 64 – and Amendment 64 still [only allows] 21 years and older – there’s also language in Amendment 64 that states there’s nothing that prohibits a person, employer or school from prohibiting or otherwise regulating the consumption, use of marijuana on their property,” Linhart said.

     “It has to do with the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act of 1989,” he said. “You cannot have illegal drugs on college campuses.”

     “[U]niversities that fail to comply with this act are subject to losing federal funding [meaning] student financial aid dollars,” Linhart added.

     Not only would the university’s research funding be affected, but also federal funding, such as grants, loans and work study money, could be cut.

     Cutting funding could result in students being pressured to attend a university that did continue to comply with the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act of 1989.

     While Linhart sent the reminder, the decision to maintain the ban on marijuana on campus came from higher up.

     “Marijuana procedures came from a legal review done by our legal counsel,” said Patrick T. O’Rourke, vice president, university counsel and secretary of the Board of Regents, in an official statement.

     CU President Bruce Benson sent a message in December echoing Linhart. “Marijuana threatens to cost the university nearly a billion dollars annually in federal revenue, money we can ill afford to lose,” he wrote.

     “Our campuses bring in more than $800 million in federal research funds, not to mention nearly an additional $100 million in funding for student financial aid,” Benson continued. “The loss of that funding would have substantial ripple effects on our students and our state.”

     Despite funding driving CU’s challenge to Amendment 64, many students express dissent with the ban.

     “I think it’s natural for them to not allow it on campus but only because it is newly legal,” said Cosette Cornwell, a junior philosophy major who lives off-campus.

     “Otherwise, it is silly to not give people their right to smoke on campus. That is like banning cigarettes,” she said. 

     Another student on campus, who wished to remain anonymous said, “I understand the financial side of this issue, but that doesn’t mean the policy should stay this way.”

     “The state has spoken – shouldn’t the schools speak up for the many voters within it that helped pass the amendment? I feel like it’s my right to smoke on campus,” the student said. “This campus is a part of the state.”

     Violations of the policy haven’t been seen in the numbers of arrests or calls since Amendment 64 passed in December.

     “Numbers have stayed fairly consistent. There’s been some fluctuations but not drastic,” Linhart said. He does not anticipate this to change.

     It is uncertain whether the present policy concerning marijuana at UCCS will change, according to Linhart.

     “I don’t know. That’s a tough one,” he said. “I do know that the state is still trying to figure out from a state perspective how to enact [this], so I see there’s going to be changes.”

     Linhart said that revisiting the policy in the future is probable as more information comes through from the state level.

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