With the passing of Initiative 59 this spring, medical marijuana became legal in the District. Finally, the D.C. Council realized the lunacy of keeping the substance illegal for medical purposes. But GW administrators clearly still fear the reefer, because they have banned the use or possession of medical marijuana on campus.
While I can sympathize with the University in its mission to keep illicit substances off campus, I can’t agree with denying a student with a valid prescription the right to do something that would be perfectly legal anywhere else in the city.
Taking this action is simply vilifying marijuana. If a student has a condition marijuana has been proven to treat, and therefore obtains a prescription, what makes marijuana any different from Adderall or Xanax? Both of these substances are prescription medications that are ubiquitous on college campuses. Yes, they too can be thought of as “illegal substances” in the eyes of Student Judicial Services and the University when found in the hands of those who don’t have a legitimate prescription. But why is it any different when it comes to marijuana? If a student has a prescription for it and therefore keeps it in his or her dorm room for personal use, it is their medication and the University has no business to hinder that. Now if that marijuana finds its way to the room of a student without a prescription – then that student should be punished by SJS just as he or she would before D.C. legalized medical marijuana. If the student was caught using or possessing Adderall or Xanax without a prescription, he or she would face the same repercussions.
In addition to the hypocrisy of the campus-wide ban on medical marijuana, GW’s policy sends out the wrong message to the physicians who support the use of medical marijuana and the users who swear by the drug’s effectiveness. Essentially by not letting the law take its course, GW says that it does not trust the system to ensure that only students who sincerely need medical marijuana receive it for just medical purposes.
But who is it that the University does not trust? Is the administration afraid the medical marijuana laws are not stringent enough to prevent students with “fake” illnesses from getting cards? Or perhaps GW does not trust the doctors writing the prescriptions? Either way, we need to accept that trained medical professionals know better than to write prescriptions to 20-year-olds without first ensuring it is absolutely necessary. The fact of that matter is that it is not easy to obtain this prescription. Only those suffering from serious illnesses such as cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS or other chronic conditions are eligible for a prescription.
GW has simply taken the easiest and most restrictive approach when dealing with the legalization of medical marijuana in D.C. with the campus-wide ban. Instead of coming up with a feasible solution that takes into account the reservations surrounding marijuana usage and the fact that it is considered to be a medication, the administration has taken a step that prevents some students from getting the medication they need. Other universities, such as the University of Southern California, treat marijuana usage like cigarette usage. This policy allows students to posses medical marijuana and use it, just not inside smoke-free buildings.
I urge the University to revisit this policy and cast away preconceived notions surrounding medical marijuana. While I understand that the notion of marijuana being allowed on a college campus may unnerve University officials, ultimately the University has no right to deny ill students a substance that has the potential to help them be healthier and more successful for the rest of their years at GW.
-The writer, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.
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