NORML members question U. marijuana policy
The University is obligated to abide by federal laws that mandate persecution for the possession of marijuana, according to Patrick Love, associate vice president of Student Affairs.
On Thursday, he and other officials met with University student members of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, who requested clarification of policies and possible equalization of the rules regarding alcohol and marijuana.
“If a student is caught in a residence hall with alcohol, they do not call the police, but they do with marijuana,” said Joel Salvino, president of NORML.
Salvino, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said any students convicted of marijuana possession lose any federal financial aid, in contrast to the treatment of alcohol possession.
NORML came to the University in January to combat policies which led to students convicted of marijuana possession, he said. Though the group consists of University students, it is not affiliated with the University yet.
Salvino said the University requires a new club to be active for a full semester before it can request funding.
“We will be filling out the paperwork in April,” he said. “Next semester we will be funded by the University.”
Administrators have worked on this policy for the past 2 and half years, Love said, and do not plan to change it any further.
“If the goal is to get us to change the student code of conduct, that’s not going to happen,” he said.
Since laws designate residence halls as private property, any alcohol convictions can be treated in-house without any legal complications, he said. In contrast, there are strict federal regulations dealing with the possession of marijuana.
“Everyone [in the organization] has been arrested or knows friends that have been arrested for this,” Salvino said. “Many don’t like to talk about it because it’s embarrassing.”
He said Love could send out an email to Resident Assistants and change the entire system of marijuana prosecution.
“We know you have the power to change residence hall policy,” he said.
Love said Salvino’s assertion that a convicted rapist would not lose federal financial aid was wrong. Any convicted sexual offender would lose financial aid, have to live off-campus and register with the New Brunswick police.
“You’ve made that statement a couple of times, and that’s simply not true,” he said.
For most first-time offenses, alcohol and marijuana in the residence halls are treated exactly the same, said Anne Newman, director of the Office of Student Conduct.
“Most of the time, first-time offenses get a conditional discharge, and get it expunged after a period of time,” she said.
She said intent to distribute is different. Intent to distribute applies when a student has more than 50 grams of marijuana, but even in those cases many students have received conditional discharges.
Salvino said the online instructions on the issue are not clear, and he could not find the exact information about marijuana possession online.
“I’ll look up the rules, and if they’re confusing, I will add in that policy,” Newman said.
Lisa Laitman, the director of the Alcohol and Other Drug Assistance program, said the University acts this way because they receive federal funding and have to abide by federal law, she said.
She said marijuana and underage drinking in residence halls are only considered different because of these laws, and in public they are treated with the same restrictions.
“If the police officers catch somebody with a red cup by the grease trucks or on campus, they will arrest,” she said.
Federal laws also influence the University’s rules on medical marijuana, she said. Even though medical marijuana is legal in New Jersey, they cannot allow it on campus because they receive federal funding.
“Students with prescriptions for medical marijuana are allowed to move off-campus without any penalty, but they cannot have the drug in the residence halls,” she said. “There’s a no-smoking rule in the halls anyway, so there’s no point in having it.”
In response to Salvino’s questioning, Laitman said for the administration, it was not a moral issue but a public health one.
Salvino said the issue is unclear to many students because different Resident Assistants treat marijuana differently — some would call the police, some ignore it and some adress the offense themself.
Resident Assistants are mandated to call the police if they find marijuana in their hall, Love said.
“If they choose not to, they’re putting their job in jeopardy,” he said.
Laitman said NORML should not only work with the University to deal with marijuana legal issues but with their own student body, helping them to use the drug responsibly.
She said studies of college student marijuana uses and abuses are rare. Similar studies with alcohol have found the national rate of student alcohol abuse is between 20 percent and 30 percent, and 6 percent to 9 percent of students are considered dependent.
“There’s a full spectrum of use, from non-user and recreational users, to late-stage, chronic and addicted students,” she said.
Taylor Hadam, a member of NORML, said legalization of marijuana could have helped her family through many health issues.
“Students should be trying to have a discussion to get rid of meds and have conversations with their parents about the facts of marijuana, so rumors don’t keep being spread,” said Hadam, a School of Arts and Sciences senior.