Marijuana and schools could be linked in the public consciousness, but the two don’t go together in Maine – at least not officially despite the drug’s legalization earlier in the month.
Universities and Colleges throughout Maine have been reminding students that marijuana continues to be prohibited on their campuses, irrespective of weed’s new legal status elsewhere for those 21 and older. It’s a textbook instance of political satire, given that many of these schools are situated in towns that leaned greatly for legalization last November in a campaign where the statewide margin of victory was merely 4,000 votes.
“The federal law and the state law are in conflict with one another and our perspective is – like a lot of our fellow institutions of higher education – that we will continue to follow federal law,” said Joshua McIntosh, Bates College’s vice president for student affairs and dean of students. “Our strategy to it and our policies toward it remain unchanged and will probably stay unchanged until that conflict between the state and federal governments gets worked out.”
Same goes for most, if not all, institutions of higher learning in Maine.
“Nothing will change here,” said Robert Dana, vice president for student life in the University of Maine in Orono.
PART OF A NATIONAL TREND
That dynamic also is playing out on campuses in Massachusetts, Washington, Colorado as well as the four other states that have legalized recreational marijuana. Faced with the prospect of losing scholarship money and grants by breaking federal law, schools are choosing to play it safe in regards to official policy, even if the on-campus truth is a bit vaguer.
Sam Mendez, director of the University of Washington School of Law’s Cannabis Law and Policy Project, isn’t conscious of any schools in legalization states which are openly permitting the usage of marijuana, considering that would risk the loss of federal funds. Mendez, whose state along with Colorado legalized marijuana in the year 2012, said private schools which are not as dependent on federal funds could test that theory, but none have been willing to roll the dice.
“The ironic thing is cannabis is used in college campuses very widely but it remains against the rules and against the law,” Mendez said. “Until here’s actually reform at the federal level, I don’t believe that is going to change much. There might be (a school) which is going to challenge the federal government, but that’s a huge risk because that could be the loss of millions or even tens of millions of dollars.”
As of last Monday, Mainers age 21 and over are permitted to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and up to six flowering plants for their personal use in a private setting. The ballot initiative last November approved by a small majority of voters also legalizes retail sales of marijuana, yet weed stores and social clubs will not open until at February 2018 after licensing and enforcement rules are in place.