Prop 215 - No cannabis on campus at Humboldt State

March 09, 2004

, The Lumberjack

An HSU policy, unrevised since 2001, says that students can carry any doctor-prescribed medication on campus — except marijuana. Students caught with marijuana on campus can also lose their federal financial aid.
However, a recent court decision reinforcing the validity and necessity of medical marijuana could mean that students and faculty with medical needs can carry their prescriptions on campus.
“Marijuana is not legal. If a person has it on campus they may be disciplined or arrested following federal law,” said University Police Chief Robert Foster.

With 61 marijuana-related arrests just last year, students, faculty and anyone on university grounds are subject to the policy.

“This campus has taken a stance on marijuana,” Foster said. “What many students don’t know is that if they are convicted of possession of marijuana, they could lose their federal financial aid.”

California’s Proposition 215, also known as the Compassionate Use Act, granted doctor-recommended marijuana to those with a medical need in 1996. Conditions from cancer and AIDS to arthritis and migraines were approved for treatment in accordance with the proposition.

Dave Gieringer, director of the California chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), and co-author of Proposition 215, said that students at a state university should be subject to state law.

“I think [the HSU marijuana policy] is hokum,” Gieringer said in a phone interview from his San Francisco home. “It’s bologna. They’re using federal laws as a smoke screen. They’re required to follow state law, not federal law.”

Soon after 215 passed, many medicinal marijuana users were issued 215 identification cards in response to the backlash and continued prosecution of patients by the federal government. Although the cards aimed to counteract the confusion, they have not completely cut through the fog surrounding state versus federal regulations.

Students and faculty receiving federal money, like financial aid and grants, would lose all federal funding if convicted of a marijuana-related crime in accordance with the federal Controlled Substance Act, which bans the cultivation or use of marijuana for any purpose.

Ed Rosenthal, a member of the International Cannabinoid Research Society and author of a dozen books about marijuana cultivation, is an internationally-recognized authority on marijuana.

“What if a diabetes patient couldn’t carry insulin on campus?” he said in a phone interview from his Oakland office. “For some people marijuana is a necessary medicine either for their health or for their very life.

Regarding medications that are allowed on campus, such as insulin, Foster said, “Those are prescribed, not recommended. And it’s not an illegal substance. Marijuana is yet to be received as a medicine.”

Rosenthal disagreed. “Marijuana is recognized by the state of California as a medicine,” he said. “So (HSU) would have to have a good reason why a person couldn’t use this medicine on campus. There is no federal law on campus — it’s a state institution. “

The HSU marijuana policy, outlined in a 2001 memorandum for immediate implementation by all California State University campuses, cited the United States v. Oakland Cannabis Buyer’s Cooperative case of May 2001. The court ruled that there was no medical necessity exception to federal law prohibiting the manufacture and distribution of marijuana.

The memorandum also required all CSU campuses to comply with the federal Safe and Drug Free Communities Act. Under this act, all institutions of higher learning must enforce a program that prevents the unlawful possession, use or distribution of illicit drugs by students and employees as a condition of receiving federal funding.

However, in a December 2003 decision, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in the case of Raich v. Attorney General John Ashcroft that if the marijuana is not purchased, transported across state lines or used for non-medicinal purposes, the federal government is powerless to prosecute medicinal users.

This case marks the first time that the Controlled Substance Act has been ruled unconstitutional. The court decision, based on an interpretation of the Commerce Clause — which governs the federal government’s ability to control interstate commerce — ruled that a patient growing medicine doesn’t affect interstate commerce.

Foster wrote in an opinion piece in The Times-Standard, “It’s important to know that local ordinances and state medicinal marijuana laws do not apply on school property, including colleges and universities. On campus you will be arrested for either possession or trafficking.”

The column, titled “Educate Yourself: Getting a grip on the drug menace,” was published Feb. 19.

However, regarding interactions with 215 card-carriers in the past, Foster said, “(A 215 card) would certainly alert us to the fact that this person can use medicinal marijuana in the appropriate jurisdiction. We have directed people (with 215 cards) who have been on campus to go off campus, or there could be sanctions.”

Ryan King, an HSU Cypress resident hall tenant and entheogenic anthropology sophomore, will be receiving his 215 card in April. King, a registered member and Humbold County representative of the Marijuana Party (a non-partisan political party focused on ending the drug war), hopes to establish the party locally and is also applying to open a Humboldt County NORML chapter.

King faces daily conflicts with campus regulations as a residence hall tenant. “Housing specifically brainwashes the LGA staff (living group advisers) to persecute cannabis users,” he said.

Redwood Hall LGA Whitney Ford-Terry has written only one violation for marijuana this year.
“If we find it, smell it, see it on campus we are liable to call the coordinator on duty or (university police),” Ford-Terry said.

“It has nothing to do with us not wanting them to have it,” she said. “If we don’t abide by the rules we’re given in training we’ll lose our jobs and our housing.”

Some students in the residence halls don’t want marijuana in their living areas. Cory McGarvey, a sociology freshman and resident of Redwood Hall’s “wellness” floor, is committed with the rest of his hall mates to a drug-free lifestyle.

“I think it is a bad idea even if it was state legal for (students) to have (marijuana),” McGarvey said. “It makes it more accessible for people who shouldn’t have it.”

“These are highly uninformed people with a lot of power,” King said of the police force and housing representatives. “And that can be very dangerous.”

Rosenthal suggested immediate reform. “File a suit against the university,” he said. “Don’t play games with them. When your rights are violated you go to court.”

Rosenthal said organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union and Green Aid might offer assistance to students who wish to change the policy.

“Ultimately this policy will be overturned,” he said. “It’s unconstitutional.”

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