Matt Lalanne / Mustang News

As a federally-funded institution, using or possessing marijuana is prohibited at Cal Poly.

Possession rates have declined on campus since 2014. However, now that recreational marijuana is legal in California, University Police Department (UPD) Chief George Hughes expects an uptick in possession if dispensaries begin opening in 2018.

Marijuana at Cal Poly

In the past 10 years, the highest number of marijuana-related campus violations was in 2014. That year, there were 47 on-campus and five off-campus cases of possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. In addition, there were two possessions of concentrated cannabis and 207 other cannabis-related violations. Since then, the number of other cannabis violations has decreased nearly 18 percent with 165 violations reported in 2016.

So far this year, five narcotic citations have been issued with 51 total calls for service. It is unclear how many of those are marijuana-related, according
to Hughes.

For the category of reports classified as ‘other cannabis violations,’ Hughes stated that the total reports can account for various violations. Anything from complaints filed for smelling marijuana to students being caught smoking on campus property is included in this category.

UPD doesn’t respond for service calls in the city, but California Education Code Section 89560 allows UPD officers jurisdiction within a mile radius around campus, which is accounted for in off campus violations.

Explaining changes in state law

After Proposition 64 passed, adults over 21 are able to possess and use recreational marijuana in private homes or businesses licensed for marijuana consumption on-site.

Individuals can possess less than an ounce of marijuana and less than eight grams of concentrated marijuana and can cultivate up to six plants
per household.

The state anticipates having licenses for medical and recreational marijuana businesses in  January 2018. Businesses will be required to obtain state licenses and potentially local licenses if ordered by city governments.

Two new excise taxes will be implemented around marijuana cultivation and retail selling prices: $9.25 per ounce of dried marijuana flower, $2.75 per ounce of marijuana leaf and a 15 percent tax on retail prices.  Medical marijuana will be exempt from some taxation.

The revenue from these taxes will be deposited into a new California Marijuana Tax Fund. The proceeds will first be applied to administration costs and then to drug research, treatment and law enforcement.

Individuals who have completed sentences that are reduced under the measure can also apply to the courts to have their criminal records changed.

Campus policies
In compliance with the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988, some federal contractors and all grantees must agree to provide a drug-free environment as a prerequisite for receiving federal funding, including Cal Poly. Even those with valid medical marijuana licenses are required to exit campus before smoking.

On April 7, Executive Order 1108  went into effect, overriding all existing California State University (CSU) campus policies around smoking and tobacco. CSU campus presidents are asked to maintain smoke and tobacco-free campuses and develop an implementation plan and task force. At Cal Poly, there is a Substance Use and Abuse Advisory Committee in place.

“Our goal in enforcement is to deter the illegal activity from occurring again and we partner with Housing and [the] Counseling Center to proactively educat[e] the campus community about illegal drug and alcohol use,” Hughes said. “If a policy violation is found, we work with Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities (OSSR) to properly educate the student to hopefully not do it again.”

The OSSR first examines the student’s conduct to determine if the potential violation is a repeated behavior. If evidence of a violation is found, students are called in for an informal meeting to determine if sanctions need to be issued.

At the end of the day, the OSSR said it wants to see students succeed.

“We want to be restorative and educational, not punitive,” OSSR Director David Groom said. “We like to use language that’s not legal because we don’t want to confuse students that this is a criminal process.”

A student’s story
Natalie Montoya is a landscape architecture senior and the College of Architecture and Environmental Design (CAED) representative on the University Union Advisory Board.

Montoya suffers from ocular migraines and when morphine wasn’t working, a friend suggested she try smoking marijuana.

“Migraines were so much more manageable,” Montoya said. “Morphine didn’t help, weed did.”

Montoya also began to smoke marijuana to cope with trauma. By the end of her freshman year at Cal Poly, Montoya was sexually assaulted three different times.

As a result, Montoya said she developed PTSD and sought help from a counselor.

“When I was a freshman, a counselor told me not to get my case looked at because no one would believe me,” Montoya said.

Montoya said the counselor did not help and navigating social situations became difficult and often anxiety-inducing.

“I would be in social situations where I’d see my rapist’s face and freak out. I would think everyone was hitting on me,” Montoya said.

Montoya first tried marijuana in high school, but didn’t become an occasional smoker until it was introduced as a way to help navigate trauma.

“When I understood how to use marijuana as medicine, it helped me get through PTSD, functioning in daily life and migraines,” Montoya said.

Montoya firmly holds the position that drug and alcohol offenses shouldn’t dissuade anyone from getting involved in student government or other activism. Montoya is involved with various programs and task forces at Cal Poly, such as the external affairs committee and sustainability task force for ASI.

“I don’t want people to feel like just because you’re a pot smoker that you don’t deserve a voice or to be respected,” Montoya said.

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