University campuses are already drug-free, but one Arizona legislator has proposed a law to ensure medical marijuana is not present on community college and university campuses.
Arizona House Bill 2349 sponsor Rep. Amanda Reeve, R-Phoenix, said she introduced the bill after a group of prosecutors, defenders and law enforcement personnel expressed concerns about medical marijuana in a university environment.
“It was brought up that we needed to make it very clear that even if you have a medical marijuana card, that you're not able to partake on any educational facilities,” Reeve said.
Universities receive federal funding contingent on maintaining a drug-free environment, and Reeve said the narrow passage in November 2010 of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act might make schools ineligible.
“There's federal statutes that require that universities abide by them in order to maintain federal funding,” Reeve said. “The federal government does not recognize the states' medical marijuana exceptions.”
The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act specifies that medical marijuana cannot be smoked in a public place.
Reeve said the bill was not meant to target students, but applies to all people who set foot on an educational facility.
Reeve said the bill has received bipartisan support in committees and almost unanimous support in the House.
Three Democrats voted against the bill as it moved through the House and proceeded to the full Senate. The bill is now one vote away from reaching Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer.
“People feel like this is the right thing to do,” she said.
Rep. Tom Chabin, D-Flagstaff, voted against HB 2349 during the House vote.
Chabin said he felt the bill was unnecessary in light of current Arizona university policies and the established federal statutes.
‘There's just enough of a Libertarian in me that just thought this was a needless piece of legislation,” Chabin said. “(Legislators) ought to stay out of it.”
He said the bill conflicted with a patient's right to choose their medication based on their medical needs.
“I believe that there is a stronger sentiment in the United States, and especially in Arizona, to allow for medical marijuana to be a choice for people who suffer from cancer, glaucoma and other diseases,” Chabin said. “To me, it was an issue of a patient's right to choose their form of useful medication.”
He said his wife and brother died of cancer and he supported the 2010 ballot initiative.
“If (patients) want to use marijuana I just don't see who it hurts,” Chabin said. “Most reasonable people would look the other way if they came across someone who suffered from cancer and used marijuana.”
Graduate student Amanda Wintersieck said the bill would be unfair to younger students who are required by the University to live on campus.
“If this is the action (the legislature is) going to take they really need to consider the student population,” Wintersieck said. “I would hope they would make a decision that’s in the best interest of the students.”
Journalism sophomore Christopher Von Wilczur said the bill may not be necessary now but could be useful in the future if federal statutes change.
“It might be nice to have that state law to fall back on in case the federal statutes change,” Von Wilczur said. “(The bill) reflects more of what the state intends.”
He said the bill needed to be discussed further in order to ensure it is fair to those who use marijuana to treat a debilitating condition.
“It might be a bit unfair toward students who do actually have a legitimate reason to be using (marijuana),” Von Wilczur said. “(The bill) does require further debate.”
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