Voters may have legalized marijuana in Colorado and Washington, but dorm-room tokers should hold off on that celebratory bong rip. The Associated Press reported today that public universities and colleges in the two suddenly pro-pot states, despite this month's successful ballot measures, intend to keep enforcing anti-pot policies on their campuses. Here's why state schools will continue cracking down on marijuana — for now:
Voters out west might think there's nothing wrong with getting high, but the Justice Department still does. And as long as the federal government stays committed to treating pot as a Schedule 1 drug, school administrators err on the side of complying with big government. Nothing looks worse than a DEA task force busting down the doors of your students' grow house.
Public higher education might get most of its funding from states, but when local governments struggle to balance their budgets — and they still are — then federal funding becomes increasingly crucial. As University of Washington student reporter Jillian Stampher notes, Initiative 502 may have legalized pot in the state, but it didn't override 1990's Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act. "The act prohibits universities and colleges from allowing drugs on campuses in order for the schools to receive federal funding," she writes. Especially at big schools where reputations are staked on research, administrators won't be likely to wage a fight that dangles precious federal money in the balance.
The guideline waiting game
The feds have made themselves quite clear on this issue, but state governments where pot is suddenly legal have some clarifying to do on their expectations. Eastern Washington University deputy police chief Gary Gasseling says his department won't deviate from policy until the state Liquor Control Board creates rules on pot. Until then, he says, "The drug-free environment is going to remain in place."
Most students still can't smoke anyway
The new laws treat recreational pot like alcohol, meaning you'll have to be 21 to smoke. Schools in both states allow alcohol consumption on campus for students over 21 — but just barely. You have to drink in your dorm rooms with the doors closed, with no underage students present. Rather than devising a new set of complex rules to govern the few students of age who can smoke pot, school administrators are sticking to easier guidelines: no one, nowhere, no way.
Students at schools across the country flout the law every April 20th in huge public smoke-outs. But none of them go as hard on 4/20 as the University of Colorado, host to an annual 10,000 member THC celebration that The Chronicle of Higher Education calls "the largest on any university campus." This year, the school cracked down on the event (cutting into a performance from Wyclef Jean) because it's just gotten too darn rowdy, according to CU spokesperson Bronson Hilliard. "It’s not about the war on drugs," he told the school's newspaper. "It’s about a crowd that’s gotten too big and too unsafe for the conditions here. It was simply saying that campus can no longer accommodate a crowd of that size." School administrators will be damned if they let just any old ballot initiative give hooligans the freedom to organize such festivities.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.