Missouri Constitutional Amendment 3, which allows for the recreational use of marijuana in Missouri, among other changes, has passed. According to the Truman State University Conduct Code, students will still not be able to use cannabis on campus when it becomes legal at the state level.
Students may use it legally off-campus – with the exception of university-sponsored events – without being in violation of the code unless they are being federally prosecuted for some violation of federal law related to cannabis, JD Smiser, director of citizenship and community standards, said.
According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, marijuana or cannabis is a Schedule I drug, meaning it has a high potential for abuse. There are criminal penalties for the possession of controlled substances such as marijuana.
“Truman is obligated to comply with all federal laws and regulations or risk losing federal funding,” said University General Counsel Amy Clendennen via email. “In order to remain in compliance, Truman will not permit the possession or use of marijuana at educational or other activities sponsored, conducted or authorized by the University or its student organizations, whether on or off campus, in any on-campus housing or in any other Truman buildings or other property. Students who are over 21 and use marijuana off-campus, at a non-University sponsored event, would not be in violation of the Code of Conduct.”
Elizabeth Wiles, assistant professor of justice systems, said the clash between state and federal law regarding cannabis can be complicated.
“This is one of those areas of the legal system that doesn’t really make sense,” Wiles said. “It’s really not actually legal for states to do this, but it’s also one of those … issues that states I guess were getting fed up with the federal government not moving the needle on marijuana and cannabis and so they just kind of pushed the vote out themselves.”
The Truman Code of Conduct states “(a) Manufacture, (b) possession, (c) use or under the influence of, (d) sale, (e) distribution of narcotic or other controlled substances, (f) drug paraphernalia, and/or (g) other chemicals is prohibited, without proper prescription or required license, except as expressly permitted by law or University regulation.”
The Conduct Code applies off-campus or online if there is a “substantial University interest”.
According to the Conduct code, this interest “is affected by conduct that: a. Violates federal, state, or local law, regardless of charges being filed by a prosecutor; b. Threatens the health or safety of others; c. Impinges upon the rights, property, or achievements of others; and/or d. Breaches the peace and/or causes disruption to the educational environment.”
However, JD Smiser said that in practice, the conduct office already does not typically charge students with conduct violations for using cannabis off-campus and that this would not be changing any time soon.
“We don’t seek them [students using cannabis off campus] out,” Smiser said. “I don’t see a lot of changes in the way we do things honestly.”
Students could be in violation of the conduct code if they were being federally prosecuted for charges related to cannabis, Smiser said, though he said this has never happened before and likely will not happen.
Wiles said though federal regulations take precedence over state law, federal authorities have intentionally not been enforcing many criminal punishments for the possession or use of marijuana.
“So basically what we’ve seen with the Obama administration and now the Biden administration is the president and the attorney general telling federal law enforcement to basically back off on enforcing marijuana laws in states where it is legal in some sense,” Wiles said. “It’s really just an issue of the federal authorities using their discretion to kind of turn the other way.”
United States President Joe Biden has said no one should be in jail for marijuana use or possession alone. Smiser said that potentially, if a student was part of a money laundering scheme, they could be in trouble with the federal government and therefore the conduct office, but that this was unlikely.
“You know our students aren’t trying to do that, I can’t imagine our students trying to do that stuff,” Smiser said. “We have great students here, and so just wanting to have recreational cannabis off-campus is becoming more and more akin to drinking and alcohol over 21.”
Smiser said if a student uses cannabis off-campus and then comes on-campus under the influence, that would not be in violation of the conduct code.
“You had every right to be smoking off campus under state law, you have every right to come on campus, and there’s nothing against the conduct code to have an odor,” Smiser said. “We try to be very careful about how we approach that.”
Regarding potential increased marijuana use by Truman students, Smiser said he thought it would provide a potential to develop resources for students.
“I always have concern,” Smiser said. “The kind of approach I have is, let’s see what happens. I don’t believe in overreacting. I’m comfortable with seeing how this affects, seeing how we can help our students, seeing what this brings in terms of needs and providing for our students.”