I’ve got an op-ed in the Daily Campus today, arguing that CT law should be changed to allow medical marijuana patients to use their medicine on college campuses. You can read it on the Daily Campus website, or right here:
In less than a week, Connecticut’s medical marijuana program will take effect. Starting on Monday, Oct. 1, people who meet the requirements under the new law will be able to meet with their doctors and get a temporary registration certificate, allowing them to legally possess and consume marijuana for medical purposes.
Chances are, some of those who register will be college students. Like the vast majority of their fellow students, many of those patients will live on college campuses. Yet while state law will allow these people to possess and consume marijuana to help treat a chronic illness, they will be forbidden from consuming their medicine in their own homes or anywhere near them. The law passed this year states that the laws allowing the use of medical marijuana do “not apply to … the ingestion of marijuana on any school grounds or any public or private school, dormitory, college or university property.” This is ridiculous. The law should be amended to allow qualifying patients to consume their medicine on college and university property.
As the program has not yet begun, it is impossible to tell just how many students will qualify as medical marijuana patients. The new law allows marijuana to be recommended for a wide variety of conditions, specifically including “cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity, epilepsy, cachexia, wasting syndrome, Crohn’s disease, [and] posttraumatic stress disorder.” It also allows for more conditions to be added by the Department of Consumer Protection. While nowhere near as expansive as laws in states like California, Connecticut’s law includes enough conditions to allow for a large number of people to qualify as patients.
The reason for the ban on medical marijuana consumption on university property may have its roots in the stereotype of the college stoner. But Connecticut’s law is strict enough to ensure that no recreational users are making up bogus conditions in order to get their hands on legal marijuana. College students in the program are more likely to include veterans returning from war with PTSD and wanting to re-integrate into civilian life, older students who are trying to go back to school despite their health problems. Some of these students may appear to be healthy young people at first glance, but have been silently battling terrible conditions, such as cancer or Crohn’s, for many years. There are many students who are in legitimate need of medical marijuana, and denying them medicine because of an unfair stereotype is offensive and insensitive to the suffering they have endured.
Students who are medical marijuana patients will essentially be prohibited from living in on-campus housing. The law’s prohibitions on consumption on university property applies equally to classrooms, dormitories and apartments. Patients living on-campus will need to either break the law by consuming marijuana in their home, or go somewhere off-campus to use their medicine. If they choose the latter, they will either need to stay in that location for many hours or get someone to drive them home in order to avoid the risk of driving while impaired. This makes no sense when students prescribed dangerous narcotics are allowed to possess and consume their medicine in on-campus housing.
Proponents of keeping the law as-is will be quick to point out that no other prescription medicine is smoked and that the law makes sense, since students cannot smoke inside the dorms anyway. Concerns about fire safety and smoke damage are legitimate – I’m not advocating that students be able to smoke anything in on-campus housing, prescribed or not. However, the law does not just prohibit smoking medical marijuana on university property, but ingesting it in any way. There are many methods of consuming marijuana that run no risk of starting a fire or damaging rental housing, such as cooking it into food or using a vaporizer.
The point of any medical marijuana program is to recognize that, when used properly, marijuana is a legitimate medicine that can treat a variety of conditions. Yet as it stands, Connecticut law draws an arbitrary and unnecessary distinction between medical marijuana and other medicines recommended to patients by their doctors. To truly legitimize medical marijuana, this distinction must be removed.