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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Trailblazing for student health

Difficulties of medical marijuana policy

Medical marijuana has been legal in Pennsylvania since April 2016, but sales of legal cannabis to patients did not begin until last February. The passage of the Medical Marijuana Act came with a long list of stipulations; eligible patients need to have a current diagnosis of one of 21 specific medical conditions and receive a prescription from a medical provider who has registered with and been approved by the state.

The bill allows for the licensure of up to 25 growers and up to 50 dispensaries. One of those dispensaries, Cure Pennsylvania, recently opened down the street from St. Joe’s at 4502 City Ave, across from the Bala Cynwyd Shopping Center.

St. Joe’s students who have been prescribed medical marijuana will not be able to use it on campus, however, as the university’s drug policy currently prohibits the possession or use of marijuana, even for medical purposes.

St. Joe’s is not unique in its prohibiting medical marijuana on campus. Most colleges and universities in states where cannabis has been legalized for medical use have retained their ban on the drug because of the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act, which requires institutions, both public and private, who receive federal funds to ensure that federally-outlawed drugs are not used on their premises.

According to Jessica Moran-Buckridge, director of Residence Life, a student with a perscription for medical marijuana who wished to move off-campus would be treated like any other student with a medical need and documentation supporting a need to be released from an on-campus housing agreement.

However, St. Joe’s does not have an official policy to this effect, and it is not reflected in any official university documents, such as in the student handbook or on the university website.

By not having formal guidelines in place for students with medical marijuana prescriptions, St. Joe’s is creating a policy gap in its community standards.

First and second-year students who need access to medically prescribed marijuana but are required by university housing policies to live on campus are deprived of access to a personal medical necessity.

Several universities in states that have passed medical marijuana legislation allow students with prescriptions to be released from their campus housing agreements without incurring an extra charge.

Tufts University and Skidmore College, located in Massachusetts and New York respectively, have specific policies pertaining to students with medical marijuana prescriptions which allow those students to terminate their on-campus housing agreements and move off-campus.

St. Joe’s, as a university in a state with medical marijuana legislation, may want to develop a similar policy which allows resident students with medical marijuana prescriptions to end their housing agreements and move off-campus. The university currently allows first and second-year students to live off campus “in cases of extraordinary financial or medical need,” according to the residential living policies and procedures section of the Student Handbook.

This policy does not reflect the needs of students who may obtain medical marijuana prescriptions mid-year and need to be released from their housing agreements. It also does not cover students with marijuana prescriptions who are medically able to live on campus but need to secure off-campus housing to access their prescriptions.

Our policies are not finite; they can and must be revised as state and federal laws change and as we learn more about the social, medical and physical needs of our student body.

Despite the logistical challenges that come with adding or amending any university policy, the need to open up a conversation about how to tackle this issue becomes clear when we consider the potential benefits to students who use medical marijuana to treat chronic illness, post-traumatic stress disorder, epilepsy and opioid use disorder, among a number of other conditions.

St. Joe’s first responsibility is to its students. It isn’t necessary for the university to wait for a go-ahead from its peers; we have the ability to create and change policy as it fits the needs of students, regardless of precedent.

—The Editorial Board

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