The state of Arizona has opened a new front in the escalating war on medical cannabis, this time turning their attention directly at youth and students. On Tuesday, April 3, Governor Jan Brewer signed a bill into law that prohibits medical cannabis on college campuses in Arizona, despite the fact that state voters approved a medical marijuana law in November 2010.
This new law will prohibit anyone, including students and faculty, from possessing cannabis on an Arizona college campus, regardless of whether or that person is an approved medical marijuana patient. Over the past year the Arizona Department of Health Services has approved over 22,000 patients to use and possess medical cannabis. Yet the very same government is now limiting the ability of these patients to get an education.
Plenty of college students and faculty suffer from cancer, AIDS, MS, or more commonly among younger students, chronic and debilitating pain typically resulting from automobile or other serious accidents that can benefit from the therapeutic use of cannabis. And we’re not only talking about young adults in their early 20’s. Community colleges in particular enroll many students in their 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s who are more likely to suffer from a condition that could be alleviated by doctor-recommended medical cannabis. A commuter student or faculty member suffering from HIV/AIDS should not have to drive home between classes, a geographic impossibility for many, simply because they are unable to possess their medicine on campus.
Students are currently allowed to possess Vicodin, oxycodone, and other commonly abused opioid-based medications on campus if their doctor feels it will alleviate suffering. Students whose doctors recommend medical cannabis should be treated no differently.
The rationale for this bill is that allowing medical cannabis on campus would be a violation of federal drug free schools laws, and would jeopardize federal funding for the schools.
This is a disingenuous argument made to justify an unjustifiable policy. Medical cannabis is currently legal in sixteen states and the District of Columbia, and no university has had federal funds revoked because they failed to ban medical marijuana on campus.
This bill is simply another attempt by the Arizona political establishment to roll back a medical cannabis law that they opposed from the beginning. Last year, Governor Brewer suspended the dispensary licensing program until federal and state judges forced her to re-start the program. This administration has made it clear at every turn that they will do whatever they can to subvert the will of the voters and prevent the medical cannabis law from fully taking effect as approved by the voters, this time taking direct aim at students.
Arizona students should be outraged by this attack on their medical rights. If we are going to fight back against this assault on students and patients, we will need a well-organized student movement in the state. Any student who cares about protecting their rights, and the rights of their colleagues and faculty who rely on medical cannabis, should consider starting a chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy on their campus. This attack on students demands a response by students, and no group is better suited to lead the charge than SSDP.