By Lexi Kelley /// Staff Writer
With just months before the “Control, Regulation, and Taxation of Marijuana and Industrial Hemp Act” comes into effect, communities, schools and concerned parents are left wondering what a weed-legal Oregon will look like once the smoke clears. However, for private colleges like Lewis & Clark, there isn’t much left to wonder. Recreational marijuana is legal in Oregon, but for our campus there is likely to be little to no change.
The bill, also known as Measure 91, will allow for both personal use and possession of recreational marijuana by anyone over the age of 21 under Oregon law. As of July 1, recreational users will be allowed to possess up to eight ounces of marijuana and four plants per residence. Additionally, it will grant the increasingly popular Oregon Liquor Control Commission the authority to tax, license and regulate recreational marijuana. However, it’s going to be a while before marijuana becomes available for retail purchase because the OLCC will not be accepting license applications until January 2016.
Sounds fairly reasonable, right? So what’s the problem?
To put it simply and in the language of a generic drug-rug toting, reflecting pool-lounging LC freshman, “the problem is the government, mannnnn.”
The issue here is that amending LC’s current drug policy to permit marijuana would make little financial sense given that the school would risk losing both direct federal funding as well as the federal financial aid available to us as students. These funds are awarded to the school for complying with federal programs including the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act (DFSCA) of 1989, a federal law that prohibits possession or sale of federally illegal drugs within 1000 feet of real property comprising a school (public and private schools included).
Out of all full-time, degree seeking undergraduates in the U.S. about two-thirds receive some sort of financial aid. As of 2015, nearly 38% of financial aid dollars awarded to students are in the form of federal loans. 38% of financial aid may not seem like a lot. However, applying the national average to LC, 38% of the current cost of tuition is $16,500 per student. That’s no small drop in the bucket if you ask me. Now, two-thirds of our campus population is about 2000 people. Two-thirds of that would be 1333 people. If they each receive $16,500 in loans for one year of school, that’s a total of $21,994,500 of federal aid that would be completely absent from our school.
Our sister states, Colorado and Washington, have already felt the heat from their students hoping to be able to light up on campus. The precedent that the colleges and universities of these states have set is one that complies with the federal government so that they do not lose their federal funding. At University of Denver, marijuana is not allowed on campus. Similarly to alcohol, students who are 21 and over are free to partake if they so desire, as long as it is not on school property. Norman Arkans, spokesman for the University of Washington (UW), was quoted in an article with USA Today saying, “If someone thinks they are going to walk around campus smoking a joint, it’s not going to happen,” showing that UW would not fall to pressure because of the state’s change. University of Colorado at Boulder (CU Boulder), known for their annual 420 Smoke Out, has been a bit more lenient with the language of their policy. At CU Boulder, students over the age of 21 can carry less than an ounce while on campus. This has been the only major change that the campus has seen in relation to the legalization of marijuana in 2012. However, CU Boulder had to revisit their housing policies for freshmen possessing medicinal marijuana cards, and has decided to exempt them from their requirement to live on campus.
Off-campus housing is set to feel the largest impact of the new state law. The majority of these housing options do not constitute school zones or public facilities (libraries, public pools, etc.), and thus compliance with the DFSCA does not require LC to enforce prevention of state legal marijuana use outside of its campus. The question still remains however, how this will look with the OLCC controlling the taxing, licensure, and regulation of the use of recreational marijuana, seeing as we already do not have the best relationship with the OLCC here at LC.
While many students experienced a sense of relief and excitement when Measure 91 passed, what they may not have realized is how it will play out on our campus. Based on the precedent set by colleges in both Colorado and Washington, there is a very small chance that our school’s policy will change. It is safe to assume that most other colleges and universities here in Oregon will follow the lead of both Washington and Colorado. The only change we may see would be in the requirement for students with a medicinal need for marijuana to stay on campus their freshman and sophomore years here at LC. The school’s policy on marijuana cannot change if we hope to continue to receive federal financial aid. If the school does change its policy and we lose our government assistance, the amount of money that students would have to make to cover the difference would be substantial and drastically increase the financial burden on LC students.