Colleges Stick with Federal Ban on Medical Marijuana

Although medical marijuana is now legal in Massachusetts and other states, most college students this fall won’t be allowed to use their prescriptions on campus.

Many college campuses are caught between state and federal drug policy. In Massachusetts, for instance, the state now permits marijuana use for medical reasons, but the federal government does not. Since many colleges rely on federal funding, they have decided to stick with the federal drug ban so as not to risk that source of money. Most college spokespeople were reticent to get into details, other than to point out the rules. UMass Amherst spokesperson Patrick Callahan says students caught with medical marijuana on campus would be disciplined.

“It would be a violation of the student code of conduct,” Callahan says.

Chris Yurko of Holyoke Community College says the school does not make a distinction between recreational and medical marijuana.

“And as of now,” Yurko says, ” it’s not under review or in consideration for amending, the policy that forbids marijuana on campus.”

Several other Western Massachusetts colleges, including Hampshire, Smith, and Williams, also confirmed bans against medical marijuana. An Amherst college spokesperson says all smoking is banned on campus, but students with prescriptions for medical marijuana are allowed to live off campus. A Mount Holyoke representative says that school is still working out its policy.

Betty Aldworth of the national group, ‘Students for a Sensible Drug Policy,’ says schools that ban legal marijuana are being overly cautious — to the harm of students.

“People who are using medical marijuana are doing so because they are oftentimes replacing other drugs, other pharmaceutical drugs in their life,” she says, “and we don’t ban the use of those pharmaceutical drugs on campus.”

Aldworth says she knows of no college that has lost federal funding over medical marijuana. Calls to the U.S. Department of Education were not returned.