Opinion: Medical marijuana should be allowed in ASU's residential halls

From campus policy to federal law, marijuana regulation needs sweeping change

Marijuana is known to offer several medicinal benefits but is often overlooked due to its questionable legal status. At present, marijuana is strictly forbidden on all properties owned or leased by ASU. This is severely detrimental because many medical marijuana cardholders living in any of ASU’s residential halls will have to seek alternative prescriptions.

Despite being most known for its recreational use, marijuana and the medications derived from it have a variety of medicinal applications. 

Cody Holt, a senior in global studies and the director of operations for the ASU chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, said marijuana has been used medicinally for much of recorded history.

"Medical marijuana has been used medicinally not just recently," said Holt. "There have been noted applications across societies across the world."

Holt also said that banning marijuana on campus goes against ASU's core values. 

"It goes against ASU's principle of inclusivity," Holt said. "(Prohibiting medical marijuana use) is not really capturing all the students we possibly can and giving them the best chance for success." 

Currently in western medicine, medical marijuana is used as an alternative to opioids for treating chronic pain. Peter Grinspoon, a medical doctor and contributing editor to Harvard Health Blog, said that marijuana is especially helpful for patients with nerve disorders such as multiple sclerosis.

Similarly, cannabinoid medications can be used to help people with PTSD or patients undergoing chemotherapy because of their ability to reduce pain and nausea while boosting mood and appetite. In addition, marijuana’s properties as a muscle relaxant make it a treatment option for conditions like Parkinson’s disease and even epilepsy as shown by double blind clinical trials.

Medical marijuana is not risk-free by any means, but prohibiting it forces medical users living in the dorms to seek potentially more harmful and addictive alternatives, such as opioids like fentanyl and oxycodone. Some even argue that prescribing these medications contributes to the opioid crisis facing the U.S.

On the other hand, Grinspoon claims that marijuana carries no risk of death by overdose and significantly lower risk of addiction than opioids, making it a clearly safer alternative.

Thus, it seems counterintuitive to prohibit medical marijuana but freely allow the use of prescribed opioids. The reason is entirely due to state legislation. ASU spokeswoman Herminia Rincon said the ban is not up to ASU.

“The prohibition against marijuana use on campus, even for people with a medical marijuana card, is not an ASU policy,” Rincon said in an email. “State law prohibits the use of marijuana on the campus of any educational institution in the state.”

This may appear stringent, but is actually lax compared to how marijuana is regulated on a federal level. The DEA lists marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance, putting it on par with heroin and ecstasy and subjecting users to some of the harshest legal ramifications available.

To be included on Schedule I, the drug must have a high abuse potential and no accepted medical application. Marijuana is an obvious standout on this list because it meets neither criteria — not only is the abuse potential low in comparison to the other drugs on Schedule I like heroin, but the medicinal benefits are well established. 

The reason for its inclusion is shockingly malicious. According to Nixon aid John Ehrlichman in an interview with Harper’s Magazine, Nixon specifically wanted marijuana to be a Schedule I drug to allow him to incarcerate his left-wing opponents. Recordings of Nixon asking for a “strong statement” against marijuana support that his position against it was contrived.

Students suffering from conditions treatable by medical marijuana shouldn't have to compromise their health. Allowing medical card holders to use marijuana in their residences could help them manage their medical conditions without turning to far more dangerous drugs.

ASU may only be complying with local and federal law in prohibiting marijuana use, but it's an issue that the student body and faculty alike should care about. Outdated laws stemming from political sabotage are negatively impacting residents, so it is time to advocate for change. 


Reach the columnist at rdougla3@asu.edu or follow @rossdougla on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the  author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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