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Prohibition State: Why Is Medical Marijuana Still Banned on College Campuses?

Despite being legal in the Universities's home states, cannabis is still barred. Blame the federal government for that.

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Medical marijuana might be legal in more than half the states, but that doesn’t mean it’s fine to use it on most college campuses.


The reason? Marijuana still remains illegal at the federal level and schools are concerned it might put them in jeopardy with the law.

The latest example of this comes from Oklahoma. The state recently approved the use of medical marijuana for certain conditions and diseases and within the guidelines provided by law (such as getting a doctor’s prescription and registering with the state).

However, the state’s two major colleges, the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University, recently announced they will not allow medical marijuana on campus.

Student reactions were as expected. “Honestly, I think that’s a little bit ridiculous,” one student told KFOR News in Oklahoma.

Related: White House Orders Federal Agencies to Find Bad Things to Say About Legal Marijuana

Federal Problems

Like many universities before them, the decision by the two Oklahoma schools came down to one major issue: cash from the federal government.

Public schools get funding from the federal Department of Education, and that funding is contingent on complying with federal law. Marijuana has been listed as an illegal, Schedule I drug since the 1970s.

In announcing the decision, the universities said they had to consider remaining compliant with three federal laws to continue receiving funding.

  • Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act
  • Federal Drug-Free Workplace Act
  • Federal Controlled Substances Act

That last one is the one that makes the growing, distribution, selling and possession of marijuana a federal crime.

Related: Massachusetts Is Helping Legal Cannabis Businesses Get Started in Areas Hit Hardest by War on Drugs

Not Getting Arrested

Because possession and even growing a limited number of marijuana plants is legal now in Oklahoma, students themselves will not get arrested if they violate the universities’ rules.

This is the case in most states where marijuana is legal -- although it almost wasn’t in Arizona. The legislature there attempted to make possession of medical marijuana on campus a crime despite medical marijuana’s legal status in Arizona, But a state court struck the law down after an Arizona State University student sued.

This is not a “red state/blue state issue.” The University of California system bans all marijuana from campus, as well. So does the University of Oregon. Some have taken steps to get around federal law, such as the University of Colorado, which now allows freshman students to apply to live off campus if they use medical marijuana.

For students and cannabis advocates looking to see change on the issue, one place to start may be the voting booth in November. 

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