Colorado and Washington Universities Face Challenge Over Legalized Marijuana
On Tuesday, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize recreational use and personal possession of marijuana for anyone 21 or older. In addition, Colorado’s Proposition 64 allows for marijuana to be sold in stores with licenses. The marijuana advocacy group, NORML, released a statement saying: “The significance of these events cannot be overstated. Tonight, for the first time in history, two states have legalized and regulated the adult use and sale of cannabis.”
However, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has told residents that while the state plans to honor voters’ wishes, they should not celebrate just yet. “This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through. That said, federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug so don’t break out the Cheetos or gold fish too quickly.”
The federal law prohibiting marijuana is what has state universities concerned. “We are already sorting through it now, but it’s complex and it’s going to take time,” said Bronson Hillard, a spokesman for the University of Colorado-Boulder. USA Today points out that the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act puts universities “at risk for all of its federal funding if they knowingly and willingly allow illegal substance use on campus.”
The University of Colorado-Boulder is the top-ranked school on the “Reefer Madness” list from the Princeton Review, so it’s unlikely things will change too much. And that seems to be the thought surrounding the topic. “You won’t see a big influx of people who just want to go to school in these states just because they want to party. They already can go party,” says Chris Conrad, a court expert witness on marijuana. “The age limit is 21, so until they are 21 it will not make a huge difference no matter what campus they are on.”
But even at 21, openly smoking pot on campus doesn’t seem to be something state universities are thrilled about. “We are a smoke-free campus, so regardless you can’t smoke in dorms, buildings or any grounds,” University of Denver spokeswoman Kim DeVigil said. “We will comply with state, local and federal laws.”
Chris Simunek, editor-in-chief of pro-cannabis magazine, High Times, says things will remain unchanged around Colorado and Washington campuses. “I find it difficult to believe that universities are all of the sudden going to [allow] cannabis-friendly coffee shops on campus,” Simunek says. “I think for universities it is going to be best for them to look the other way, like they have been doing for years. Any student who is really interested in marijuana already knows that these are easy towns and easy states to find marijuana,” he says. “Kids shouldn’t choose their college by how good the herb is.”
It’s a waiting game for now though, as colleges wait to hear from the state before they make any definitive decisions regarding their policies.