Why We Highly Recommend Students Avoid Marijuana

March 7, 2024

On December 7, 2023, Ohio legalized adults possessing 2.5 ounces of cannabis in any form.  With recreational marijuana use now legal in twenty-four states, many college students wonder if they can possess and use marijuana at school.  Regardless of where a student attends college, the answer to whether students can possess or use marijuana in dorm rooms or elsewhere on campus is almost always a resounding no.

Federal Laws Place Limits on Marijuana Use

Although many states have legalized recreational marijuana, federal laws place limits on marijuana use and possession. Under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance, which means that it is not recognized as having any health benefit.  Thus, under federal law, possessing, buying, and selling marijuana remains a federal crime.  While, generally speaking, the federal government has declined to prosecute the possession and use of marijuana use in states where marijuana is legal, the federal government is free to enforce its laws at any time. Furthermore, the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act requires colleges and universities to ban the use of illegal drugs and to certify to the Secretary of Education that they have a drug and alcohol abuse education and prevention program (DAAPP) for employees and students.  Any school receiving federal funding in the form of grants, scholarships, and financial aid must comply with this law.  Finally, schools are also subject to the Drug Free Workplace Act, which also prohibits the use or possession of illegal drugs in the workplace.

For those wondering about medical marijuana, schools are not required to permit students to use medical marijuana on campus or at school events.  Again, because marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law, the Americans with Disabilities Act does not require schools to permit the use of medical marijuana as a reasonable accommodation.

What Does This Mean for Students?

Ignoring the limits imposed by federal law, shrewd students may think that simply limiting marijuana use to off campus locations is a means of enjoying recreational marijuana without getting into trouble.  This thinking is incorrect.  Regardless of state and federal law, colleges and universities have the ability to prohibit the possession and use of drugs in their own codes of conduct and nearly all schools have anti-drug policies.  Students found responsible for violating the school’s code of conduct may face sanctions like disciplinary probation, mandatory drug and alcohol education, removal from campus housing, suspension, and even expulsion.  Additionally, student athletes must comply with the NCAA’s substance bans, which includes cannabinoids.

Given the high stakes for students and student-athletes, students should simply avoid marijuana.  In the event that a student faces student conduct proceedings or legal proceedings in a court, the student should seek legal representation to ensure the student’s rights are fully protected. For assistance, please contact our Student & Athlete Defense attorneys Susan Stone at SCS@kjk.com; 216.736.7220, or Kristina Supler at KWS@kjk.com; 216.736.7217.