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Can You Bring Marijuana on Colorado Campuses?

By Timothy Bussey on March 30, 2018

For college students, campus plays a big role in their day-to-day lives as they work towards their degrees and establish a social life. While universities are given some latitude regarding the rules they establish for students, ultimately, everyone must follow all applicable local, state, and federal laws while on campus.

Since recreational marijuana was legalized in Colorado, one of the most frequent questions we get is whether it’s legal to consume cannabis on college campuses if you are over 21. Can universities create policies that differ from the state law?

What Are Cannabis Rules That Apply on Colorado Campuses?

First of all, despite the passage of Amendment 64, the 2012 ballot initiative that legalized cannabis for recreational use, students at Colorado universities are still not allowed to possess or use cannabis on campus. The only exception is for students who have valid medical marijuana cards.

According to H.R.3614, the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act, any institution that receives federal funds must make an effort to fight illegal drugs. Although marijuana has been legalized in select states across the country, possessing, selling, or consuming it still represents a violation of this federal law.

What does this discrepancy mean for university students in Colorado? Because of federal law, college administrations must continue to disallow cannabis use on campus, even for students who are 21 or older. Practically speaking, this means that while students will not face criminal charges for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, they could still be punished by the administration.

If you think this doesn’t sound fair, you are not alone. This divide between the federal and state laws has left many gray areas, meaning that students who are behaving in a legal and responsible manner can still be punished.

Can You Be Expelled for Cannabis Possession?

Every Colorado university has established its own guidelines for handling marijuana use. First of all, schools such as the University of Denver have established themselves as smoke-free campuses, meaning that you aren’t even allowed to smoke cigarettes. Of course, there are plenty of smoke-free cannabis options, such as edibles. All students should inform themselves of the rules particular to their school.

Another aspect to consider is that while the rules may say one thing, the administration may decide to turn a blind eye. This means that discreet consumption might be ignored, unless students begin behaving in an irresponsible manner. It is tempting to believe that because you’ve seen others around you consuming cannabis without any consequence that you’ll be fine as well. However, the reality is that if school policy states that cannabis consumption is a violation, then you are always at risk of being punished. Perhaps this is the night that the college or university decides to make a show of enforcing the rules in order to prove that they are in compliance with federal law.

Whatever the situation, getting caught with cannabis on campus can have serious and long-term impacts on students. In the most extreme cases, it could lead to expulsion and federal drug charges being brought against you.

What Are the Cannabis Rules at Colorado College in Colorado Springs?

Let’s take a look at the rules at Colorado College, located here in Colorado Springs. Students employed by the college must adhere to the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988. Any employee of the school who’s been convicted of a criminal statute must notify the college within five days of the conviction. This could expose the student to further disciplinary action.

You may think you are safe consuming while you are off campus, but you’d be wrong.

According to the Colorado College’s code of conduct, students are still bound by campus rules even while off campus. The code states: “Colorado College students studying in off-campus contexts or participating in college-sponsored programs remain responsible to uphold the Colorado College Student Code of Conduct and the laws relevant to their location. The Student Code of Conduct also applies to conduct that takes place at any time from the date that a student is offered admission to the college until the student has completed graduation and includes summers and between semesters.”

While it might not seem fair, colleges have these rules in place to protect themselves when students violate school rules outside of the campus. You might think that you have the right to consume marijuana legally in your off-campus housing, for example, but if the school authorities find out, you could be punished.

Drug charges carry severe consequences in our courts and on campus and this is true whether you’re being charged at the local, state, or federal level, or even if your case is being handled within a university disciplinary system. You should always remember that if you’ve been charged with a crime, you have the right to defend yourself and to due process regardless of the venue. If you are facing drug charges of any sort, you should immediately consult with one of our experienced drug defense attorneys at The Bussey Law Firm, P.C., to learn about your rights. Call (719) 475-2555 for an initial consultation.

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