UA system warns staff, students of pot use

The passage of Ballot Measure 2 won’t change what faculty and students are allowed to do on Alaska’s college campuses.

 

The University of Alaska system sent an email Tuesday to all staff and students at its Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau campuses warning against using marijuana.

Alaska joined Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Washington D.C. in allowing the regulation and sale of marijuana, but “failure to comply with federal laws and regulations regarding marijuana would jeopardize UA’s continued receipt of federal funds,” the UA email stated.

Vice President of University Relations Carla Beam said Thursday that administrators in Fairbanks had already received a number of questions about growing and cultivating marijuana on campus. Students across the UA system had also started asking if they’d now be allowed to smoke and possess pot on campus, Beam said.

In response, UA attorney Michael Hostina took the initiative to “articulate what the law does and doesn’t allow” before any mishaps occured, according to Beam.

The notification, which came eight days after the election where Alaska residents voted to legalize the sale and regulation of pot, clarified that although the state had legalized marijuana possession, it was still a violation of federal law and wouldn’t be allowed on campus.

“It is prudent, and the wisest thing to do for students,” Beam said of the email. She said although the federal government has said it will not pursue any individuals for possession in legalized states, “it is basically taking a chance because the federal government could decide to come in at any time.”

That approach isn’t sitting well with some students.

“UAS shouldn’t be wasting its resources on a policy that’s outdated,” said University of Alaska Southeast student Glenn Hoskinson. “I understand that it’s still against federal law and that UAS is a public school, but I think it’s a huge waste of resources to try to enforce this policy on college students and professors. Marijuana has been made legal in Alaska and UAS needs to catch up.”

Federal regulations restrict the use and possession of drugs and alcohol through the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act and the Drug-Free Workplace Act.

Because of the university’s compliance with federal regulations, staff may be tested for the presence of drugs or alcohol in their systems, but only if they’re in safety-oriented positions, according to Beam.

“It seems like an overreaction,” said UAS economics professor Brian Vander Naald. “Are they going to begin monitoring everything else we do in our time outside the university?”

A positive test could result in termination “even if the marijuana use occurred outside of work hours and otherwise in accordance with state law,” according to the university memo.

The approved state ballot measure mandates that individuals under 21 may not legally possess, distribute or use marijuana, just like alcohol. Use of marijuana in public is also prohibited.

Campus policy restricts alcohol consumption in accordance with federal and state laws that prohibit public intoxication and minor consumption.

Beam said that alcohol is tolerated on campus, but only under the federal guidelines. UAF operates a pub in its Wood Campus Center and Anchorage has a restaurant on campus that serves alcohol to patrons over 21.

Ballot Measure 2 won’t take effect until 90 days after the Nov. 4 election is certified. Regulation of marijuana sales will begin months after that.

Businesses and private will be allowed to regulate possession, consumption and distribution at their own discretion.

The UA Board of Regents’ policies on student conduct also specify that any violations of local, state or federal laws, on or off campus, may result in disciplinary action by the university.

• Stephanie Shor can be contacted at stephanie.shor@juneauempire.com or at (907) 523-2279.

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