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Pot legalization puts colleges in tough spot

On Tuesday, Nov. 6, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize marijuana for recreational use. The laws will allow people over the age of 21 to possess a small amount of marijuana for personal use.

Photo courtesy of Vaporizers_/Flickr

This law puts colleges in these states in a tough position, because federal law still says that marijuana use is illegal. Because most colleges receive federal funds, they are required by law to follow federal regulations that bar the illegal use of drugs and alcohol on their campuses.

"Universities are sometimes sandwiched between state and federal regulations," Bronson Hilliard, a spokesman for the University of Colorado at Boulder, said to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Government officials in Colorado also warned residents to not start celebrating yet. "The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will," Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said. "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 Goldfish too quickly."

Administrators in Washington had similar responses. Norman G. Arkans, a spokesman for the University of Washington, said to the Chronicle of Higher Education, "I can't tell you what's been in the hearts and minds of perhaps hopeful students, but it's not something we've been all that concerned about." He added,"We're a large recipient of federal money. So if there's a conflict here, we have to comply with the federal side of it."

Hilliard said that administrators were not surprised about the ruling, and will need to decide how to handle the change in law, particularly how it will affect the popular 4/20 "smoke-out" that caused problems last year. University officials will meet soon to discuss the April event, Hilliard said.

Arkans said that the new law will force administrators to improve their communication with students about the use of marijuana. The university will have to make it clear that "the students understand that even though the state has loosened its restrictions on possession of marijuana, 'you can't have it on campus'," Arkans said.

In Massachusetts, marijuana was also voted on. Here, it was legalized for medical use in treatment for people with diseases like cancer, Parkinson's Disease, AIDS and other conditions. Nonprofit centers will be created to grow and provide marijuana to patients.

Photo courtesy of Valerie Malta Photography/Flicr

How could this new law affect college students in Massachusetts?

Many opponents of the law say it will lead to abuse because there will not be enough regulation to ensure only people who need it for a real treatment are receiving it.

Heidi Heilman, the head of Massachusetts Prevention Alliance, told Fox News Boston that she is worried the law is too broad and will open the door to allow too many people to get it legally.

"People can get medical marijuana for headaches, insomnia, back pain. That will increase the demand, and with that comes an increase in supply. That's what happened in other states," Heilman said. "It's a billion-dollar industry that we just opened the door to here in Massachusetts. They are going to come in and capitalize on anyone in pain and our young people."

One of the frequent arguments against medical marijuana is usually that it is just a step in the direction of full legalization, like what has happened in Colorado and Washington.

For now, students who were in support of Question 3 can celebrate in a legal fashion by watching the Top 10 pothead movies.

Cover photo courtesy of Heather Cassano/Flickr.



Meghan is a member of the class of 2013 from Cape Elizabeth, Maine. She is a Political Science major and Faith Peace and Justice minor. She joined the Gavel her sophomore year and has been an editorial assistant, News Editor, and Managing Editor. She spent her junior spring semester studying abroad in Granada, Spain. She enjoys writing political stories and covering campus events for the Gavel.