For students with medical marijuana cards, Mills has until now been a place where students can use their prescribed medication without having to leave campus. However, this year Mills has implemented a new policy on the use of medicinal cannabis, falling in line with the way other universities handle its presence: it is no longer permitted on campus — at all.
The current policy, as it stands in the 2013-2014 Mills College Student Handbook for Undergraduate and Graduate Students, states the following: “As of August 2013, in accordance with federal law, Mills College does not permit the use of marijuana for any purpose on College property even if the use meets the qualifications of the California Compassionate Use Act, Proposition 215.”
According to the California Department of Public Health, Proposition 215 of the California Compassionate Use Act essentially allows medical marijuana users to legally possess their California physician-prescribed amount of marijuana and use it for consumption. Some of the maladies that can be treated with medical marijuana under Proposition 215 include cancer, anorexia, severe nausea, insomnia, glaucoma, AIDS, chronic arthritis, pain and migraines.
In the past, the policy has been a little more lenient. While the use of medical marijuana was not actively promoted on campus, students could register their state-issued medical marijuana IDs with Services for Students with Disabilities.
“It appears as though in the past there may have been policies that allowed for medical marijuana usage/cards on campus, however that is not the case now. The federal law now states that any institution that receives federal funding can not allow marijuana usage/ingestion of any kind, on campus,” said LaLane Coaxum, Cowell’s administrative assistant, in an email.
Even when the policy on medical marijuana was a bit more lax, the college’s policy on smoking still stood firm: no smoking within 30 feet of any building entrance and absolutely no smoking of marijuana anywhere on campus. One student who wished to remain anonymous said she had registered her medical marijuana card with SSD for the 2012-2013 school year and was informed about the smoking policy on campus, but felt alienated and unsafe smoking marijuana outside the college gates.
“I was told to never smoke on campus, so I would go to the neighboring areas… around Mills, and I once encountered a woman who told me that this was not my place to smoke and that I could not smoke in her neighborhood,” the anonymous sophomore said. “This left me feeling like I was not safe smoking on or off campus, so I decided that it would be better to just smoke on campus to avoid unwanted attention and remarks.”
Mills policy now clearly states that students may not “possess, store, provide, or use” marijuana anywhere on campus regardless of whether they have a medical condition that falls under Proposition 215. For some students, the implications of the zero tolerance policy for medical marijuana on campus could pose a serious health risk.
“It’s basically asking that people who use medical marijuana just go to a dispensary and use all of their product before they return to campus,” sophomore Emi Serna said. “This isn’t a safe or helpful way to use medical marijuana in most circumstances.”
Serna maintains that having a policy that forces student residents to leave campus when they need to use their medicine is not only unsafe, but also unrealistic and has the potential to radically change her opinion of Mills as a whole.
“If it gets enforced beyond just a verbal ‘next time, don’t do that,’ I am going to be very disappointed,” Serna said. “This school has always been very supportive of my and my fellow students’ well-being, and I don’t think I could say the same if we were to enforce this new policy.”
The Office of Residential Life is responsible for enforcing the college’s policy on marijuana in the residence halls. Director of Residential Life Monique Butler said that because Mills receives funding from the federal Department of Education, school policies must reflect the federal law.
“If we know that marijuana is being used, we have to follow up and investigate that in the way that that’s a policy violation,” Butler said. “We can be compassionate about it, but we have to uphold what the Department of Education says.”