I-502 legalizes marijuana for state, not UW campus


I-502 - Photo Illustration Photo by Joshua Bessex

With the passage of Initiative 502 (I-502), adults over the age of 21 will be allowed to possess one ounce of marijuana in Washington state. Students at the UW, however, will see little change on campus.

The current UW policy states that any use or possession of illicit drugs on the university campus will result in strict penalties including prison time and the loss of federal benefits such as student loans.

This policy is in compliance with the federal Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act that went into effect in 1990. The act prohibits universities and colleges from allowing drugs on campuses in order for the schools to receive federal funding.

Norm Arkans, the UW associate vice president for media relations, said the UW can’t change its policy without risking its federal funding. Although I-502 legalizes marijuana on a state level, the drug is still illegal on a federal level.

“In this case, federal law will trump state law,” Arkans said. “Life won’t change for us on campus.”

Even for students with medical marijuana licenses, the drug is prohibited. For a UW senior, who asked to remain
anonymous, the UW policy has posed a problem. The student has Crohn’s disease, which is an inflammatory bowel disease that can cause painful flare-ups. He chose to get a marijuana license last December to help treat the pain.

“It helps a lot when I’m in pain,” he said. “It works for a lot of different reasons.”

The senior said there have been times when he has had to sneak marijuana on campus to treat his pain. He said banning it on campus can cause issues for those who use the drug medically.

“If marijuana is the only thing that can help them, even temporarily, and they can’t use it on campus, it’s an issue,” he said.

He voted in favor of I-502 because he hopes it will increase overall acceptance of the drug.

“The stigmatization of marijuana is definitely an issue, especially for people who use it medically.

Arkans said the passage of I-502 shouldn’t delude students into thinking the campus policy has changed.

“They need to be very mindful not to let the state draw them in,” he said. “We need to keep it impermissible.”

Reach News Editor Jillian Stampher at news@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @JillianStampher

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