Medical Marijuana and College Campuses

Students Walk on College Campus
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Cannabis and college go together seamlessly. Early adulthood gives way to all sorts of decision making; trying new things, living on your own, and exploring ways to relax as new stresses appear can be an exciting rite of passage for college students. Marijuana can be a natural fit for students both looking to decompress and those seeking a good time.

College, whether we anticipate it or not, is also a time of significant change and sometimes hardship. In the eloquent words of Robert Burns, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” This can happen in all forms of wellbeing, from mental, physical, and emotional.

Voting citizens have recognized the worth of marijuana in the health field all over the United States. Starting with California in 1996, states have passed legislation allowing cannabis to be sold legally to medical marijuana cardholders, provided they receive medical approval and register for a card. At long last, there was an upfront way to incorporate cannabis into the health arena. If only the federal government saw things the same way.

Sadly, this is not the case. Marijuana is still illegal under federal law. Medical marijuana is a state-wide phenomenon. What happens, though, when you combine a state institution (a college) with a federally banned, illicit substance? What happens when you mix something that is legal locally but not nationally?

In other words, how do colleges react to medical marijuana?

Weed and Millennials

About 2.6 million people as of 2016 have registered as medical marijuana users in the United States, according to research done by The Denver Post reported that 55 million people in the United States use marijuana (both medically and recreationally), and 52 percent of those users are millennials. The millennial generation spans from the early 1980s to the mid-1990s; the numbers attest that many within this generation are attending college, smoking weed.

Now, 26 states have legalized medicinal Mary Jane. However, if you have a medical marijuana card and use your cannabis on your college campus, you might be subject to a lot of trouble.

Honestly, medical marijuana card-carrying college students have a very limited choice, with little good coming from both outcomes. A) They can choose to suffer, foregoing their medicinal treatment, or B) They can face disciplinary action, according to most university policies.

Though it depends on the college’s specific codes and policies, chances are, they do not permit marijuana use on their grounds, even if it is sanctioned through a state-issued license. State colleges are in a bind. It’s not that they are necessarily anti-cannabis or against natural healing. The problem runs deeper: schools are afraid of losing their federal funding.

Show Me the Money

By allowing students to smoke pot (even with the best intentions) colleges risk losing a lot of money. It is all thanks to the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act and the Drug-Free Workplace Act, which came into effect in 1988 and 1989. These laws say that drugs (conveniently excluding commonplace drugs such as alcohol and caffeine), must be disallowed throughout all level of schools. Failure to comply results in ineligibility for federal funding.

Federal funding is incredibly important to colleges and universities, as well as the students who attend them. Financial aid, upon breaking the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act, could easily disappear. These loans, known officially as Title IV, include aid such as the Federal Pell Grant, Federal Subsidized and Unsubsidized Direct Loans, the Federal Perkins Loan, and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant.

Many students depend on these Title IV opportunities to go to college. It is clear why most colleges do not take the risk, even if they are sympathetic to medical marijuana card-holding students who can’t catch a break. Some states, like Arizona, have made strides in fighting the restriction, in hopes of protecting their colleges and their students. Most, however, are playing it safe by playing by the rules.

Your Life, Your Decision

Woman Smoking Marijuana Joint
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Thus, the choice is ultimately left up to you. Forego your cannabis, face the consequences of consumption, or head off-campus to light up.

Though these laws prohibit marijuana use on campus, they have nothing to do with off-campus practices. If you need to take your cannabis, the threat of these laws only extends on university (and usually housing) grounds.

As for marijuana dispensaries, a quick scan on can identify nearby pot shops like The Mint Dispensary in Guadalupe. Fear not; college towns tend to have amenities fit for their audience, overflowing in liquor stores, bars, bowling alleys, and headshops. Just be sure to check your school’s policy before toking up off-campus; to avoid trouble, it may be best to consume your cannabis a safe distance away (across the street or at a buddy’s) rather than in your dorm room.