Cannabis on campus: Everything student users need to know
By Taylor Lobb
While state residents can now legally smoke a joint or hit their wax pen when they please, the students of Las Positas are limited when on campus. No, the legalized recreational use of marijuana does not extend to the classroom, so make sure you pack your eye drops and a pack of gum.
As of Jan. 1, 2018 those 21 and over are legally allowed to possess, consume, and even grow their personal cannabis. But while it is no longer a crime to possess or consume the drug under California state law, the federal law remains and distinctly prohibits the use, sale, or possession of marijuana.
And because both community colleges within the district are in part federally funded, they are “required to abide by federal law,” according to William Garcia, Vice President of Student Services.
Even if the federal law were to allow it, though, there is a district wide student code of conduct that is separate from state or federal law which explicitly prohibits “the sale or knowing possession of dangerous drugs, restricted dangerous drugs, alcoholic beverages or narcotics.”
As for students who are discovered to have pot in their possession on campus, they can expect a meeting with the dean and are eligible for suspension, expulsion, probation, or, as Garcia put it, given a “lesser sanction for good cause.”
Sean Prather, head of campus safety, said the recreational legalization of marijuana won’t impact the campus much.
“The best way to understand marijuana consumption in a legal matter is to mirror the laws for alcohol consumption,” he said. “You cannot drive under the influence or smoke in public.”
Under California Penal Code, Prather emphasized, marijuana is not legal to consume in a public location. One must be precisely 2000 feet away, which in reality, narrows it down immensely for users.
“I think it is safe to do it in your home, just like having a beer in your home. But when you drink, there is an understanding that you can’t drive. The same goes for marijuana,” he says.
Prather also inquired to the idea of whether the future holds promise for a possible weed lounge for consumers to safely smoke marijuana. Comparatively speaking to a bar for drinkers, such smoker establishments might pave way of controlling intake and regulating the use of marijuana, making it safer for the public.
But his biggest concern, echoing the concerns of many regarding legalization, is with students driving while high.
“Often times students do not grasp the fact that marijuana impairs your judgement in similar ways that alcohol can,” he says.
While most have a good understanding of the inability to drive while drunk, Prather is catching students continuously smoking in their cars on campus with plans to drive home afterward. It poses a major threat to public safety, in his eyes.
As for those who are prescribed marijuana for medicinal purposes, the same rules apply.
Dana Barbero, director of health and wellness services for Las Positas, said no exceptions are granted for those who use for medical purposes. And while she is a nurse practitioner and able to prescribe cannabis, she is forbidden to do so for any student.
Instead of ignoring the legality and advocating against the use all together, Barbero is more focused on shedding light on the subject and educating partakers in the recreational use.
“Marijuana is legal,” she said. “It is what it is.”
She said she is hopeful that students will be able to comprehend the entire scope of marijuana usage and its side effects. After working in the HIV Trauma Intensive Care Unit for many years at Stanford ValleyCare, Barbero became fond of regret. This drove her to pursue a position at Las Positas in hopes of advocating prevention in young people.
There are common misconceptions about marijuana that are already causing issues. For example, the misnomer that it is impossible to overdose on marijuana. Barbero said since legalization, emergency rooms are seeing high volumes of adults being admitted for overdose of marijuana. The side effects range from respiratory depression and vomiting, to mental effects from brain development, to enhanced mental illness if the user is predisposed.
“What students and people don’t realize is that they need to know how much is too much,” she said. “Like drinking, you learn your alcohol limit, you need to learn your pot limit as well.”
Barbero hopes to implement education at Las Positas. Posts on the school’s website and flyers on campus, and an open-door policy at the Health Center, are all designed to inform students properly.