After Colorado legalizes marijuana, universities still say no to pot

Soon it will be legal to smoke pot in Colorado — just don’t get caught with it on a college campus.

While Amendment 64’s passing legalized possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for adults 21 and older, institutions of higher education are figuring out what that means for students, faculty and employees on campus. At Colorado State University, the University of Colorado and Front Range Community College, student codes of conduct trump the constitutional amendment.

“We don’t have any intention of allowing marijuana on our campus,” said spokesman Mike Hooker, noting that while alcohol is legal, CSU is a dry campus. As a recipient of federal funds, the schools must comply things such as the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act Amendments of 1989, which requires measures be taken to combat drug and alcohol use. And though pot is now legal in Colorado, the Controlled Substance Act considers growing or using marijuana a federal crime, CSU Deputy General Counsel Jason Johnson in an email to the Coloradoan.

“CSU is currently evaluating Amendment 64 and its potential legal and policy impacts and will update policies accordingly — but we do not expect that marijuana use and possession will be permitted on campus because its potential health and behavioral impacts don’t fit with our mission as an academic institution and a safe, fast-paced, high-functioning work environment,” Johnson said.

Possessing or using marijuana at CSU is considered a violation of the student code of conduct. CSU Police Department officers will continue to write internal conduct tickets, Chief Wendy Rich-Goldschmidt confirmed. Sanctions could range from loss of good university standing, probation or expulsion, depending on a student’s history, according to Craig Chesson, who directs CSU’s Office of Conflict Resolution and Student Conduct.

CU will not relax marijuana enforcement as a result of Amendment 64’s passing, the university said in a letter to campus, while means use of the substance is banned on university grounds, and in university buildings, facilities and public areas.

People found in possession of less than one ounce of marijuana won’t receive a criminal citation but a code of conduct sanction, said Ryan Huff, spokesman for the CU-Boulder Police Department. This follows in step with Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett, who announced last week he would dismiss all pending criminal cases of possession of less than one ounce of pot.

The amendment will affect a “small” portion of the campus’ population, Huff said, noting that 62 percent of the undergraduate class at CU-Boulder are younger than 21 and 4 percent of those living in the dorms are over 21.

Punishments for violating the code of conduct would vary from case to case.

“Any drug offense can net a penalty ranging from a suspension in abeyance to longer suspensions of semesters and even academic years — depending upon the nature of the offense,” CU spokesman Bronson R. Hilliard said.

Front Range Community College’s Student Code of Conduct will still prohibit the possession or use of alcohol and drugs on campus. Because the college doesn’t have a police force on campus, “any drug violations will be, if appropriate, referred to the local police,” said FRCC Larimer campus Vice President Bruce Walthers.

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