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Campus Cannabis

Can marijuana find its place in state universities?

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College campuses have always been a hotbed for marijuana.

Some students seem to forget it's still illegal. Every week the Arizona Daily Wildcat runs at least a couple police beat blurbs about students opening their dorm rooms only to see a UAPD uniform through bloodshot eyes.

Just a few weeks ago, a man approached me while I sat smoking a cigarette and offered to sell me some weed. I told him I already had a guy.

Though anecdotal, these occurrences are part of a larger trend in the changing perspectives on marijuana.

Now, a group of veterans who use medical marijuana want to meet with the campus police to work on a policy allowing medical marijuana on campus.

Marijuana has become increasingly popular among veterans in recent years. Typical use beyond treating chronic pain that may result from military service extends to reports of the plant being an effective treatment for PTSD.

In a first-of-its-kind study, Phoenix researcher Sue Sisley is working to demonstrate the effectiveness of using marijuana to treat PTSD.

The study has been hindered by the quality of marijuana provided by the federal government, but once completed, it'll be the only scientific evidence of marijuana PTSD treatment.

Sisley's research began at the UA, but they refused to host her study, raising suspicions of the university's feelings on marijuana. Arizona prohibited medical marijuana on college campuses in the state in 2012, two years after the passage of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.

In 2015, a student at Arizona State University was charged with possession of marijuana on campus despite being a medical marijuana cardholder. He appealed the decision as unconstitutional based on the 2010 medical marijuana law.

A petition on change.org to revoke the anti-medical marijuana campus policy says that the petition creator asked two UAPD officers about the policy, and both cited federal marijuana laws despite being under state jurisdiction.

Posters on campus also cite federal law despite the previous administration's hands-off policy. Though that may change with the new president, states aren't shy about pursing legalization of marijuana.

One of the petition's backers, U.S. Army veteran Dan Schmink told Channel 12 News in Phoenix that people don't understand that veterans might not want to take pills. He sees the UA's policy as a counter-progressive to the marijuana trend.

"Why should a university, which is supposed to be the progressive center of tomorrow, say 'No'?" Schmink said. "It doesn't make sense to me."

Opening up marijuana use on college campuses, even if it is medical marijuana, presents a few conflicts. Even if someone is a cardholder and is allowed to possess marijuana in the state, there would be little to keep them from providing marijuana for non-cardholders.

Medical marijuana has still eaten into the black market in this way. People who might usually buy from unknown sources may now be able to find a friend whose source is a dispensary.

Even though marijuana's detrimental effects are minimal compared to other controlled substances, responsible use is at the center of its successful introduction.

College students, fresh out of high school with a whole new world opened to them may not yet have the ability to responsibly moderate their use.

When combined with a typical student's workload of class and possibly a part-time job, it's not entirely impossible for responsibilities to spiral out of their control. Still, medical marijuana patients shouldn't be punished for carrying medication. Other prescriptions aren't confiscated on college campuses, so why should marijuana?

The issue comes down to enforcement and jurisdiction. Since the UA is a state university, it should adhere to state law. But it would be difficult for UAPD to monitor marijuana changing hands.

Ultimately, that seems to be a problem despite the university's current policy, as is evident by the weekly reports of use in the dorms. Like the war on drugs, this is a battle law enforcement has already lost.

It's time to find another solution.

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