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November 12, 2012 11:00 AM What Legal Pot Means on Campus

By Daniel Luzer

Colorado and Washington State may have legalized marijuana by referenda last week, but that doesn’t mean college campuses are going to be any more permissive of pot use on campus. It’s still going to be a prohibited substance.

According to an article by Natalie DiBlasio at USA Today:

Social media is abuzz with future college students dreaming of doing bong hits openly on the greens of universities in Colorado and Washington state. But those dreams may go up in smoke.
“If someone thinks they are going to walk around campus smoking a joint, it’s not going to happen,” says University of Washington spokesman Norman Arkans. Although voters in Colorado and Washington approved the legalization of marijuana, officials aren’t expecting cannabis-welcoming changes in campus policy.

The problem is federal financial aid. The Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act of 1989 puts any American college at risk of losing federal funding if it allows “illegal substance use” on campus. That is, federally illegal. Will recreational use of use of marijuana might be legal in Colorado, it’s still a prohibited substance under federal law.

As Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, explained in what strikes me as an astoundingly weird statement for a sitting governor to make, “Federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug so don’t break out the Cheetos or gold fish too quickly.”

While jokes about the munchies might indicate that Colorado probably isn’t going to be all that interested in enforcing federal laws, what does that mean, really, for college students?

Technically it means that nothing will change on campus. There’s no real liberty issue here (hell you can’t smoke cigarettes on many campuses anymore; colleges can prohibit anything they want) but it will, perhaps, seem a little odd. Students will be able to get high legally two blocks from campus but on campus, well students might be pretty interested in consuming marijuana, they’ll face the wrath of the campus disciplinary committee.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer