The legalization of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania was a huge milestone in the state’s history. Its use at Slippery Rock University has been a little different, though.
Early in September, a CA reported to the SRU police department that a student was smoking in their dorm room and it could be smelled from the hallway. When the officer arrived to speak to the student, they showed the officer that they had a medical marijuana card. Despite having proof that the cannabis being smoked was legal, the student was referred to student standards.
“Slippery Rock University is subject to the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act,” David Wilmes, Chief Student Affairs Officer, said. “A federal law which requires colleges and universities to establish policies that address unlawful possession, use, or distribution of illicit drugs. Marijuana is still considered an illicit drug under the federal schedule and therefore is not allowed on college property per the Drug-Free Schools Act.”
The Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act was instated in 1989 by Congress and has since been left untouched and unamended despite the changes to the legal statutes of cannabis from state to state. This is due to the fact that cannabis is still illegal federally.
Although medical marijuana is recognized by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, this federal law overrules state law. That means if a student with their medical card wishes to safely smoke without risk of being cited, they have to leave university property.
Codey Smith, a senior healthcare administration major, spoke about his experience after getting his medical card.
“It comes down to state power at this point,” Smith said. “Even though it is legal for me now, there are all these restrictions.
“You can’t have it out of its container, dispensaries aren’t allowed to sell papers because joints are still illegal, and a lot of things like that. It’s like you can have it, but just barely.”
John Fetterman is the current lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania. Fetterman has always been an avid supporter of the decriminalization and recreational legalization of marijuana in Pennsylvania. His stance on cannabis has been a focal point during his campaign for U.S. Senate.
In 2019, Fetterman hosted an unbiased listening tour across the state to hear the opinions of the citizens on the topic of legalization, alongside Governor Tom Wolf. At the time, nearly 70% of all Pennsylvanian citizens were in favor of approving adult-use cannabis legalization and “near-unanimous support for removing cannabis from its current classification as a Schedule 1 drug, alongside deadly drugs like heroin,” as reported at the end of their tour.
In Butler County, specifically, 88% of the 275 total responses were for legalization, with 9% being against and 3% being undecided.
Although state representatives have been working to adjust these laws for the use of cannabis, the SRU community must still follow the guidelines of the federal act. Bills to create the legalization of recreational use have attempted to be passed, but still, nothing has been concretely assembled.
Students who are caught with medical marijuana on campus can face disciplinary probation and referral to a drug treatment program. A third offense would result in a minimum one semester suspension.
“It’s a medication,” Smith said. “I know that’s a super millennial idea, but it’s true.”