Legalizing marijuana in Michigan presents questions for 'U' policy

Sunday, November 11, 2018 - 6:19pm

Last Tuesday, Michigan voters approved the passage of Proposal 1, which will soon legalize the recreational use of marijuana in the state.

Last Tuesday, Michigan voters approved the passage of Proposal 1, which will soon legalize the recreational use of marijuana in the state. Buy this photo
File Photo/Daily

Last Tuesday, Michigan voters approved the passage of Proposal 1, which will soon legalize the recreational use of marijuana in the state. Michigan became the first Midwestern state and the 10th in the country to legalize cannabis, as the proposal won by a margin of 56 to 44 percent.

The proposal allows for adults aged 21 and older to purchase, possess and use marijuana; eat marijuana-infused edibles; and grow up to 12 marijuana plants in their homes for personal consumption. There will be a 10-ounce limit for marijuana kept at residencies and any amount over 2.5 ounces must be kept in a locked container. While marijuana will most likely not be immediately available in commerical markets until early 2020, a state licensing system will be created for local governments to monitor marijuana businesses, including growers, processors, transporters and retailers. State-licensed retailers will be able to sell marijuana and other products.

The proposal will not go into effect until the vote count is certified by the state Board of Canvassers, which is projected to occur in the first weeks of December. 

However, despite the passage of the proposal, the University of Michigan will retain its marijuana abuse policy, which completely prohibits the possession of marijuana on campus and in conduct of University business away from campus. The University released a statement in response to the proposal’s passage, explaining their strict stance on marijuana policy.

“As a recipient of federal funds, U-M is required by federal law to maintain drug-free campuses and workplaces. Those federal laws take precedence over state law,” the statement read. “Therefore, the use, possession or cultivation of marijuana in any form and for any purpose continues to violate the U-M Alcohol and Other Drug Policy and is prohibited at the university.” 

University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald reiterated the University’s response to the passage of Proposal 1, stressing the University does not expect to change the way it regulates marijuana posession.

“We do not anticipate any significant changes in policy or approach. That’s consistent with the brief story last week in the University Record,” he said. “Since the change in state law does not take effect for another few weeks, we are taking time to carefully review the situation before discussing any possible changes in process or procedures.”

The Department of Public Safety and Security’s Annual Security Fire & Safety Report released this past September indicated 76 drug law arrests were made on campus in 2017, and an additional 278 drug law violations on campus property were referred for disciplinary action.

Adam Rosenberg, founder and executive director of Green Wolverine, pointed towards the University’s use of federal funds as a major barrier to changing marijuana policy.

“Proposal 1 legalized cannabis on the state level, but the plant remains a Schedule 1 controlled substance under federal law,” he said. “Therefore, altering the drug policy to allow for adult-use cannabis consumption could have negative implications for federal funding. It is unlikely that the University will take the risk of making adjustments in contradiction to cannabis' current federal classification.” 

Some students expressed concern over the University’s lack of policy change. One sophomore student, who is a medical marijuana card holder, understands how federal law puts the University in a compromised position, but is still disappointed it continues to maintain their stringent policy on medical marijuana.

“I can see why they don’t want to break federal law, but the passage of Proposal 1 also puts the University in a position to make a valuable statement … I wish that the University would give some accommodation to medical marijuana patients,” he said. “As an institution based around research and science, there is no clear reason that they should deny these patients the ability to use medicine proven to be beneficial to them.”

While marijuana will not be available commercially until 2020, some are skeptical as to whether dispensaries will steer students away from purchasing the drug from unregulated dealers. One sophomore student, who sells marijuana and who requested to remain anonymous, explained why he expects students to continue buying unregulated marijuana after the drug will be commercially available.

“There’s going to be high taxes on weed. It will be much easier to get from your local dealer then it is to get from a dispensary,” he said. “Also, the age is going to be 21, so kids who are younger … are probably going to go to local dealers.”