University students who get caught on campus with marijuana but produce a medical marijuana registration card may still face repercussions even though state law says they are legally allowed to possess the drug.
This is because the University’s Alcohol and Other Drug Policy for Students, Faculty and Staff operates under federal law, which still mandates that marijuana is illegal even for medical use. However, the University’s Department of Public Safety abides by state regulations, which allow registered patients to use marijuana for medical treatment.
Michigan voters passed the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act in 2008, which made medical marijuana legal for registered patients. Under the state law, patients can have up to 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana and up to 12 marijuana plants if they grow their own medicine. Caregivers — people who assist medical marijuana patients who don’t grow their medicine — can also have up to 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana and up to 12 marijuana plants for each patient they care for.
Michigan state law recognizes findings from studies like a 1999 report from the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine that conclude marijuana can be an effective treatment for relieving pain, nausea and other debilitating medical conditions.
However, the University’s AOD Policy still maintains an unequivocal ban on all marijuana. This is because the AOD Policy follows federal law, which still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I drugs are the most restricted of the five drug classifications and are not acknowledged to have any medical benefits.
The most recent version of the AOD Policy — which is updated every two years — came out last August. Consistent with federal law, the policy states that “the use, possession or cultivation of marijuana in any form and for any purpose continues to violate the UM Alcohol and Other Drug Policy and is prohibited at the University of Michigan.”
The policy abides by federal law because of the University’s reliance on federal funding. The Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act states that an institute of higher education that receives federal funding “must certify that it has adopted and implemented a program to prevent the unlawful possession, use, or distribution of illicit drugs and alcohol by students and employees” or risk forfeiting its eligibility for federal funding.
Mary Jo Desprez, the University’s AOD Policy and Prevention administrator, wrote in an e-mail interview that after the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act passed in 2008, there was a “thorough review and discussion” of how to deal with medical marijuana use among students.
However, since the University must comply with federal law to receive federal funds for programs such as financial aid and research grants, Desprez wrote that there wasn’t much room for debate.
According to Desprez, the committee reviewing the policy researched relevant legislation — including the 2008 state act, the Drug-Free Schools and Campuses Act and the Drug-Free Workplace Act — to construct the most recent version of the AOD Policy. She added that the committee also looked at what other states had done to adjust to medical marijuana legislation.
University Housing Spokesman Peter Logan said all students caught with marijuana in the residence halls will face the same consequences regardless of whether or not they are registered patients or caregivers, as University Housing is in compliance with the AOD Policy.
“Even if a student was caught in a (residence) hall or an apartment with what they claimed to be medical marijuana, they would still be subject to the same kind of process for violation of community living standard and go through the same kind of conflict resolution processes that are available to them,” Logan said.
This past year, University Housing Security reported several instances of residential students with medical marijuana cards going through student conduct procedures for having or using marijuana in residence halls or on-campus apartments, according to Logan.
While the University’s policy will comply with federal law, DPS will enforce state law, according to DPS spokeswoman Diane Brown.
“The police enforce laws, they don’t enforce policy,” Brown said. “The police will need to enforce the laws of the state of Michigan.”
However, Brown pointed out that the University could still get involved in DPS cases, in which instance, federal guidelines may apply.