The struggles of medicating at DU

Citi-Med is a popular dispensary for medical marijuana students near DU

There is no doubt that many who hold a medical marijuana card in Colorado do not legitimately need the card. Yet for those who truly need the medicine, it can be hard to be accepted by society and many schools, especially if you go to the University of Denver.

The DU Honor Code states that “Possession, use, manufacture, or distribution of any illegal drug, or any possession or use of any prescription drug or other controlled substance except under the direction of a licensed physician is prohibited. Marijuana, including Medical Marijuana, is prohibited on campus.”

There are many students at DU with medical marijuana cards, and while upperclassmen who live off campus are in the clear for the most part, underclassmen who are still living in the dorms risk getting suspended or expelled for using or possessing their medication.

What the school has to say

In a phone interview with Kristin Olson, Director of the Office of Student Conduct described what generally happens when a student is caught on campus with marijuana. “It depends on whether or not it was in their possession or if it was being smoked on campus. Generally possession or having smoked is probation for two quarters,” said Olson.

She also spoke about whether or not students with a medical marijuana card get off the hook a little bit easier. “There is no difference between those who possess or smoke on campus who don’t have cards and those who do,” said Olson.

What the students have to say

An anonymous sophomore claims that he had to move off campus in order to escape the policies that DU has made on medical marijuana, and to avoid breaking the honor code. “It was either get kicked out of school, or continue to medicate and get a house off campus,” said the student. “I was in a severe car accident recently where I almost lost my life and broke several bones, and since then the only thing that I have found comfort in is medical marijuana. It was either that or get addicted to painkillers, which I would never want to happen.”

The sophomore expressed anger and frustration when asked about what he thinks of illegitimate users abusing the medical marijuana system here in Colorado.

“It bothers me that so many people abuse the system we have here in Colorado. It simply is not fair to those who truly need medical marijuana, and it gives the whole system a bad reputation, when in reality it is the last resort for many legitimate patients,” said the sophomore.

Other students have been lucky to be on campus and not have severe punishments for possessing medical marijuana.

“I had campus safety come into my room last year in Hilltop Apartments and they tried to get me suspended from school,” said an anonymous junior. “Once I was able to confirm that I had a legitimate medical marijuana card, and after a lot of defending myself in board hearings at school, I was basically given a warning. Without my continued defense and determination, I would have been in a whole lot of trouble,” said the junior.

While the school can be extremely strict on marijuana, the Denver Police are a little more forgiving.  An anonymous sophomore had less trouble with the law than he did on campus. “I got caught with marijuana the first night I moved in freshman year last year. All that happened was I was given a $100 fine and a confiscation of the marijuana, and that was the end of that,” says an anonymous sophomore.

What the future may hold

This sign shows how dispensaries are becoming more acceptable, since one can go to a normal restaurant or retail store in the same block as one

Things could really change this fall when Colorado becomes the second state in the nation to put a proposal on the ballots to legalize marijuana for recreational use, and to regulate it like alcohol.

So what should students do if they have a medical marijuana card? “I would say to not smoke or possess it on campus,” said Olson. “If they have a legitimate documented medical reason they could be released from housing or be accommodated by housing. We have not seen a legitimate medical reason for smoking. We had a cancer student who we allowed to ingest medical marijuana in a pill form, but we were aware of it and the student worked with us on it. It was helpful to us that she was not smoking so that she could still medicate and not cause a disturbance to our smoke free campus,” she said.

A vote to regulate marijuana like alcohol will be on the ballot. So what if this ends up passing and marijuana becomes legal to those who are over 21 years old? “If they were to legalize it, I am not sure if it would change our policy or not,” said Olson. “We are allowed to make some rules that are stricter on campus than the laws. In light of the smoke free policy on campus, we could still certainly prohibit smoking. It would be put on the table and see what is the best decision for our campus.”

The University of Denver will most likely not change its policy on medical marijuana on campus any time in the near future. As the laws on marijuana in Colorado are becoming more and more relaxed, there is a possibility that this could change in several years. Until then, medical marijuana patients will either have to move off campus or just hide and hope for the best.



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