New marijuana law hasn’t changed college rules in Connecticut

The state’s new law that decriminalizes small amounts of marijuana has not yet changed the way southeastern Connecticut’s colleges penalize students who are caught with it. Although the University of Connecticut, according to a story by The Associated Press, has formed a panel to reconsider the school’s policy on marijuana and police notification, the region’s three campuses are carrying on as usual so far. “The short answer is no,” Amy Martin, manager of media relations at Connecticut College, said in response to a question about whether the college is revisiting its policy. “Under state law, the drug is still illegal, so we will be treating it as such.”

Effective July 1, possession of less than a half-ounce of marijuana is an infraction, with police issuing tickets instead of making arrests. At UConn, the panel of administrators and students is reconsidering a policy that requires police to be notified when there is a suspicion of marijuana on campus. Public universities are weighing whether it makes more sense to handle such cases in-house, with campus security officers, than call police, according to AP.

Connecticut College’s Alcohol and Drug Review Board reviews its policy annually, Martin said, but is not undertaking a review because of the new state law. Martin said the college handles incidents on a case-by-case basis. Its policy does not specify, for example, the punishment for a student caught with a half-ounce of marijuana versus one caught with more. “We don’t have automatic sanctions like that,” Martin said. “There are a lot of things that would go into the case; it would depend on all sorts of different factors.”

Those factors could include whether the student was at a party, whether they also had alcohol or drug paraphernalia on them, and the like. Campus safety officers also determine whether to handle the situation themselves or call New London police. At Three Rivers Community College in Norwich and Mitchell College in New London, employees in each college’s communications office were unaware of discussions regarding potential policy changes.

Mitchell College’s policy handbook warns students that the odor of marijuana is enough evidence “to subject a student to disciplinary action as an illegal substance violation.” Students can be disciplined by the school and/or local police, according to the handbook. The handbook, which is in the process of being updated, also cites state law. It does not yet reflect the latest change.

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