By: Caitlyn Freeman, Editor in Chief
While many Towson University students say they support the state’s forthcoming recreational marijuana legalization, university officials say the campus will remain smoke-free and it’s too early to make decisions on non-smoking consumption.
Sixty-seven percent of Marylanders voted on Nov. 8 to adopt an amendment to the state’s constitution that would permit the state legislature to pass laws allowing the use, distribution and regulation of marijuana for Marylanders 21 and older beginning July 1, 2023. Marylanders will be allowed to possess 1.5 ounces of marijuana beginning July 1, the Washington Post reports.
Currently, possession of fewer than 10 grams of marijuana is considered a civil offense with no incarceration risk and a maximum fine of $100, according to The NORML Foundation.
The legalization brings forth conversation about the future of marijuana regulations on U.S. college campuses.
The future of weed at TU?
Vice President of Student Affairs Vernon Hurte said the University had not made any major decisions regarding marijuana yet. However, TU will continue to remain smoke-free regardless of the legalization.
He said the University would focus its efforts on educating students about marijuana consumption.
“I do think that with this legislation, if everything, kind of goes through the legislature, [education is] going to be a place where you’ll see more and more kind of work from Student Affairs in particular around, just making sure students are educated around the potential health issues and things like that.”
In terms of non-smoking consumption of marijuana, such as edibles or pills, a university spokesperson said the state is still in the early stages of legalization, so no decision has been made.
Alternatively, in the wake of the vote, the University of Maryland, College Park, told students marijuana will still be prohibited on campus, The Diamondback reported.
Kris Furnish, the co-founder of the Maryland Marijuana Justice, a cannabis legalization advocacy organization, said it’s hypocritical for Towson to allow alcohol consumption on campus for those over 21 but prohibit cannabis use.
At Towson, alcohol consumption and possession are prohibited for students under 21. Those 21 and over who reside in on-campus housing may possess one 12-pack of beer or one bottle of wine or one quart of liquor. The possibility of treating on-campus marijuana usage as alcohol consumption has yet to be decided on, the university spokesman said
“It’s kind of like a double standard, like if they’re regulating having alcohol on campus, why can’t we regulate having [marijuana] on campus,” Furnish asked.
Towson University’s current policies
Currently, Towson prohibits the possession and use of marijuana and other illegal substances on campus, according to the Student Code of Conduct. Students violating this policy may be penalized, including arrest and prosecution.
“Students are subject to discipline if they commit Controlled Dangerous Substance Violations under the Student Code of Conduct,” the policy reads. “Various penalties may be imposed depending on the violations.”
During the 2021-22 academic year, there were 44 incidents of violation of the University’s illicit drug policy, according to the University’s Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drugs Prevention Center.
The federal government categorizes cannabis as a Schedule I drug. Other Schedule I drugs include Heroin, LSD and ecstasy. As a result, public institutions, like Towson, must prohibit marijuana use as they must prohibit illicit drugs, according to the Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Drug Misuse Prevention and Recovery.
What students are saying about the amendment
The Towerlight surveyed 15 current Towson students to hear their thoughts on the vote to legalize recreational marijuana use in Maryland and what it could mean for Towson. The Towerlight is not identifying the respondents to ensure privacy.
Eleven out of 15 students said they voted in favor of the legalization, while four said they did not vote in the election at all. All respondents said they are registered voters within the state.
Fourteen out of 15 respondents said they were pleased with the election results, while one said they were concerned about the impact it might have on the community.
“I feel worried because some people already use it for medicinal purposes, but now everyone is going to use it,” the respondent, who did not vote in the election, wrote. “I worry about what the community will begin to look like since I don’t want to walk down the street and have to pass by a bunch of people lighting up.”
Further, despite the university’s current regulations, 11 out of 15 respondents think Towson’s policy on marijuana usage may change as a result of the vote to legalize. A respondent who voted for the amendment said they felt relieved by the decision.
“Weed is a peaceful drug that [has] become a tool for incarceration from the war on drugs,” the respondent wrote. “We are past that now. Let people smoke their pot.”
Four out of 15 respondents cited the reduction of marijuana-based incarcerations as their reasoning for supporting the amendment.
In 2020, 1,072 people were arrested for marijuana possession statewide, according to data from the 2021 FBI Uniform Crime Report presented by the Maryland Department of Legislative Services. Of the 1,072 arrests, 59% of those arrested were Black.
“By legalizing marijuana, it will hopefully reduce the rates of non-violent arrests of [Black] men,” one respondent wrote.
Echoing Furnish, another respondent who voted to pass the amendment said restricting the use of marijuana on campus could lead to other consequences.
“If people can drink [on campus], they should be able to smoke on campus,” the respondent wrote. “If they won’t let you smoke outside, people are just going to hide it by smoking in their dorms [or] in their cars which could lead to driving under the influence, which wouldn’t make much sense.”
Many respondents said marijuana consumption on campus would continue regardless of the university’s policies.
“I don’t think it matters, people will do what they want,” one respondent wrote.