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Weed will be legal in Maryland – but not at SU

Salisbury University's green houses by Devilbiss Hall where a hemp research program takes place.

Maryland will legalize recreational marijuana for those 21 and older starting July 1 – but not at Salisbury University. SU is not the only university to restrict weed on campus, but the herb is grown and smoked here, despite.

The primary reason weed is not legalized on many campuses: federal funding. Not because they care about drug and alcohol prevention. Not because of health concerns.

SU’s Alcohol and Drug Information page lists short- and long-term health impacts of consuming alcohol and drugs, including marijuana. The page excludes the medicinal properties and positive effects of marijuana, as well as the link between certain cancers and alcohol – which is permitted on campus for those over 21.

Marijuana and alcohol undeniably present negative side effects, but cannabis has the upper hand with its medicinal usages. It is no secret that some students smoke on campus anyway, and getting caught with the herb poses a larger threat than using it.

SU began a program in coordination with local farmers to cultivate hemp using a growth-enhancing probiotic developed on campus in 2019. Although they "aren't drug plants" and contain “greatly reduced” levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC),hemp is the same species as marijuana. At the time, the herb was only approved for growth in research operations.

Basically, it is federally approved for SU to grow and research.

I am not saying the university should stop this research, it is simply ironic.

Maryland lawmakers recently passed a bill preventing police from stops and searches of vehicles, individuals and other "vessels" based on the smell of marijuana when the substance is legalized. Rasherd Lewis v. State of Maryland similarly states an officer cannot surmise the presence of marijuana on the grounds of an odor.

It is unclear how SU will enforce the campus restriction once marijuana is legalized in Maryland, but a campus-wide email entitled Maryland Decriminalization Facts stated, “Be aware! University Police and local police will enforce the law. On-campus possession, use, or distribution, along with paraphernalia, will result in a referral to the Dean of Student’s Office.”

Can SUPD continue performing searches based on smell? SU does not directly state how enforcement will unfold. It is laughable that SU can grow any form of weed, yet students who rely on marijuana for medical reasons – prescription or not – cannot use it on campus.

The legalization of marijuana will provide safer options and reduce the likelihood of someone buying drugs off the street which can be laced with other substances such as fentanyl. Most people do not carry fentanyl test strips, meaning it goes undetected. Maryland's legislation will allow the establishment of safe recreational dispensaries and regulation of the product to decrease the sale of laced marijuana.

One thing SU could do, as a federally funded university, is exempt students from the campus residency requirement so they would not be restricted to SU's property.

This might take away from housing revenue, but would also reduce the need for overflow campus housing.

Moving closer to a harm reduced world, SU should take a progressive step forward.



Opinion Editor

Featured image courtesy of Summer Smith.

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