Although medical marijuana became legal in California in 1996, Mills did not develop a policy regarding medical cannabis usage until last month.
On March 11, Mills administration released the new policy which states patients are “encouraged to use medical marijuana products that are edible in nature” and that “students who posses a…prescription who choose to use smokable products must do so off-campus.”
This new policy threatens the health and safety of individuals who choose to medicate with smokable products, undermines state laws that are in place, and alienates a growing population within the college who use cannabis as a medication.
California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996 by Proposition 215 with the intent to relieve painful symptoms commonly associated with cancer, anorexia, AIDS, spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis, migraines or other chronic illnesses. California residents who obtain a prescription from a licensed doctor are able to obtain, cultivate, and consume marijuana without prosecution from law enforcement.
In 2003, Senate Bill 420 created an identification system and began to regulate dispensaries and collectives, allowing patients greater access to medication. Patients are able to consume anywhere except where smoking is prohibited and in motor vehicles that are being operated.
However, the new Mills policy regarding medical marijuana doesn’t guarantee these same liberties, and threatens the well-being of those students unable to regularly use edibles as medication.
For some, edibles are not an option for consumption due to the irritation that can be caused to the digestive tract. Edibles require extended periods of time to take effect and can prohibit the person who consumed to be productive due to the heavy, slow feeling within one’s body and the extended periods of time edibles affect the body. For patients who need fast relief, such as those who treat insomnia, migraines, arthritis–as well as those who are looking to have more control over their consumption—edibles are not an effective option.
By smoking cannabis, patients are able to get fast relief from discomfort. They also have more reliable methods of dosing their medication, and do not require the use of a kitchen for preparation. Patients that “choose to use smokable products must do so off-campus,” is, for many, not a safe option. Why should an insomniac be forced to walk off campus unaccompanied in the middle of the night in order to medicate?
Oakland is considered to be the medical cannabis “capital” of California, from the birth of Oaksterdam (the first of the cannabis colleges) to the numerous dispensaries that provide compassionate care, to the support of the city council in allowing the most liberal possession and cultivation guidelines in the state. Mills College is right in the heart of this capital, so why must the new policy go against the standards of the community and prosecute students in a way that even the police wouldn’t?
Along with the medical marijuana policy, an addendum to the drug policy for all students was added to the drug policy agreement that all residential students are required to signed, stating that the college reserves the right to remove a student from housing after one drug offense. This means that patients, many of which rely on student housing as a way to go to this school, run the risk of getting evicted due to their consumption outdoors. No landlord can evict a patient for consuming, especially if it is done outdoors.
I believe that there is a middle ground that both patients and administration can agree upon. I offer a solution that takes into consideration those who are bothered by cannabis smoke, administration, and patients who are suffering as a result of this new policy. I propose that Mills set up an area that is accessible and comfortable (meaning with places to sit and shelter from the elements) to all those on campus who have a medical marijuana recommendation to be able to smoke their medicine. Requiring registration with SSD that is up to HIPPA privacy standards would be necessary for all who use the area.
Or better yet, abide by the state laws in place which have been supported by the community with the consideration of the smoking rules that are already in place on campus.
Patients who are troubled by the new policy and wish to have more support are encouraged to contact Students for Sensible Drug Policies by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Zoe Schreiber is a sophomore at Mills who is majoring Psychology. She is also the president of Students for Sensible Drug Policy.