In December, Youngstown State University’s Board of Trustees voted to keep medical marijuana off-campus in and out of dorms, which may displace students that have prescriptions for marijuana because housing them on-campus would violate the drug-free campus policies set forth by the federal government.
The question of how to handle medical marijuana, especially in public places, has been debated for decades. In recent years, states have legalized pot for medical use, but the federal government has remained reluctant to recognize marijuana as anything other than an illegal pastime.
States are now instituting the medical marijuana laws in almost every local election cycle. But a new problem has emerged that puts public institutions, such as colleges, in the dead center of the controversy.
What do public institutions that need to follow federal laws to receive funding do about medical marijuana? Specifically, are universities supposed to accommodate students who live on campus that have a prescription for medical marijuana?
Colleges and universities need to follow the Controlled Substances Act and the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act Amendments of 1989, which means students, faculty and staff are banned from possessing, distributing or using pot while on campus property or while participating in university functions.
So while Ohio recently legalized medical marijuana, Ohio universities technically did not.
Students attending YSU with a prescription for medical marijuana will be required to show proof of their condition and request removal from the housing program.
Say an out-of-state student received a scholarship to attend YSU. The scholarship allowed them to have their tuition paid for including room and board. Then, let’s say that student gets cancer. Their doctor prescribes them medical marijuana to hopefully increase their appetite while they’re going through chemo.
They bring their note saying they have cancer to the housing staff and are asked to evacuate their room. See the problem?
YSU is allowing students to use the oils and edibles associated with marijuana, but students aren’t allowed to possess them on campus. You can have your prescribed Mary Jane, but don’t keep it in your dorm and don’t expect to use it on campus.
No one here is advocating for students with prescriptions to smoke a blunt, leave for class and hope to participate in school like everyone else.
There are some doctors who won’t touch medicinal pot since it carries so much controversy. If their illness is serious enough for a medical professional to prescribe Mary Jane, they should be allowed to take it.
For students with legitimate medical problems, though, there should be a solution that doesn’t involve making them evacuate their dorm.
The outdated federal laws are handcuffing administrators and decision makers across the country, forcing them to choose between the health of their students and the monetary wellbeing of their university.
The Board of Trustees and the administration can’t be blamed for following federal law, but the fact that the university decided to follow the status quo without a solution for housing these students needs to be addressed.
Ohio is still trying to figure out its own medical marijuana laws and no one can possess a prescription for another year, so YSU still has time to find an answer to the dilemma.
As time passes and universities across the state get more accustomed to the new laws, figuring out a way to house students with medical marijuana prescriptions will become an issue a lot of universities will have to handle head on.
Colleges and universities normally pride themselves on the success and safety of their students, but can that really be achieved if the students are being punished for their health by getting forced out of their dorms?
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