There are not many people that would endorse recreational drug use on college campuses of any sort, whether it is alcohol, cocaine or marijuana. The issue is that students do consume substances on college campuses and many institutions have accepted that fact and will permit students over the age of 21 to consume alcohol.
The marijuana policy inconsistencies of college campuses throughout the country is upsetting many college students and forcing them into action. Marijuana is now understood to be a less dangerous drug than alcohol, yet penalties to students caught with cannabis can cause them to be expelled from school, potentially altering their lives in a negative way permanently.
“Regardless of marijuana’s legal status, colleges should treat marijuana like they treat alcohol in their own internal policies,” said Morgan Fox, communications manager of the Marijuana Policy Project. “Marijuana is much safer than alcohol, and so much less trouble.”
College administrators appear reluctant to take this step, though, largely out of worry that they would infringe on the federal Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act. Representatives from the university systems in both Maine and California cited the 1989 law as the reason policy hasn’t changed.
Many institutions treat alcohol violations far less seriously than possession of drugs including marijuana, a “slap on the wrist” versus potential expulsion, Fox said.
At the University of Maryland, College Park, students have lobbied for reduced punishments for possessing marijuana, which they said would reflect the state’s status as having made it a civil offense in 2014. Anyone 21 or older can be caught with 10 grams of pot or less and just pay a fine, akin to a speeding ticket. The Maryland General Assembly also decriminalized drug paraphernalia.
Members of the student government at Maryland passed a resolution calling for the university to end random drug testing, housing termination, suspension and expulsion as potential consequences for students over 21 found with weed or drug paraphernalia.
The student who drafted the measure, junior Leah Barteldes, said she’s heard that the system for adjudicating marijuana violations is “inconsistent.” Her interest in this topic was first piqued because the country’s judicial system has disproportionately sent men and women of color to jail for drug offenses, she said.
Barteldes said she has met with administrators who told her they don’t always enforce the rules for marijuana as described in policy because they often consider it a lesser offense. Barteldes said she’d rather new procedures be created to remove any potential for biases. But because of the federal law, the college’s leaders fear loosening the policies could jeopardize federal funding, Barteldes said.
As technology continues its unstoppable and quick advancement, so does the evolution of perspective as new truths come to light. The problem is that older generations seem to catch on more slowly these days than younger generations that keep current on new philosophy and do not need to contend with long-term hard held beliefs such as marijuana being a gateway drug.
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