Cannabis on Campus: Does Medical Marijuana Violate University Codes of Conduct?

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Oct 03, 2022 | 0 Comments

In 1976, Jamaican musician (and founding member of the Wailers) Peter Tosh wrote a tune that would go on to be a rallying cry, a political statement, and an anthem for marijuana smokers everywhere, urging his government to “Legalize It.” Back then, many people considered the concept of legal weed to be nothing more than a—well, a pipe dream, if you'll pardon the pun. Fast-forward over 40 years, and marijuana is legal for medical purposes in 37 U.S. states, three territories, and Washington, DC; recreational consumption of cannabis is legal in 19 states, two territories, and DC.

On the federal level, however, marijuana remains illegal. Thanks to the Controlled Substances Act, it's classified as a Schedule 1 substance, which indicates a high potential for abuse and addiction, but no accepted medical use. That puts cannabis in the same category as heroin, LSD, and MDMA (aka Ecstasy or Molly). Whether it belongs there is a debate for another time, but for our purposes, it's essential to understand the status of this drug under federal law to make sense of student discipline issues involving medical marijuana.

A Quick Look: The Medical Uses of Marijuana

Before we drill down to the specifics of smoking, vaping, or ingesting edibles on college campuses, let's take a quick look at the illnesses and conditions that cannabis can treat.

Despite the government's classification of cannabis as a substance with no redeeming medical benefits, there is a growing amount of research that challenges this belief of Uncle Sam's. There is, of course, tons of anecdotal evidence about how effective marijuana is for addressing pain and other health issues; now, there's solid science to support some of the claims that have been made by users over the years.

Here's a sampling of the symptoms that cannabis can mitigate or eliminate:

  • Chronic pain
  • Nausea
  • Lack of appetite
  • Insomnia and other sleep issues
  • Muscle spasms, in particular, those associated with multiple sclerosis
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Glaucoma
  • Arthritis
  • Migraines

Students who consume cannabis to help them cope with a medical condition often describe the substance as a godsend; contrary to the stereotype of lazy, unmotivated stoners falling asleep on top of discarded pizza boxes and neglected textbooks, marijuana provides them the wherewithal to go about their daily life without the distraction of pain or anxiety—if they're able to use it on campus, that is.

Is Medical Marijuana Prohibited At College?

Recreational drug use is prohibited on college or university campuses. The school's policy on drugs is clearly stated in schools' Codes of Conduct—as are the potential consequences of violating that policy. The same goes for alcohol consumption by underage students. But what about weed? Is that treated like an illicit substance, or is it regarded more like prescription medication such as Zoloft or trazodone?

Unfortunately for students who use medical marijuana, it's the former. There are some exceptions, of course, but by and large, institutions of higher learning prohibit the use of cannabis, full stop. That's even in states where medical marijuana is legal; it's even for people who qualify for a medical marijuana card. Seems odd, doesn't it? After all, no school would forbid a student to take their Albuterol or Klonopin.

There's actually a solid reason, however, that schools disallow the use of this controlled substance. In Part II of this article, we'll unpack that reason and discuss what happens when students face disciplinary action for using cannabis on campus.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients nationwide. Attorney Lento and his team represent students and others in disciplinary cases and various other proceedings at colleges and universities across the United States. Attorney Lento has helped countless students, professors, and others in academia at more than a thousand colleges and universities across the United States, and when necessary, he and his team have sought justice on behalf of clients in courts across the nation. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide, and he can help you or your student address any school-related issue or concern anywhere in the United States.


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