No green zone

The university is unable to accommodate medical marijuana usage on campus, regardless of a student’s possession of appropriate medical marijuana authorization.

The university is unable to accommodate medical marijuana usage on campus, regardless of a student’s possession of appropriate medical marijuana authorization.

A concerned Portland State student said he is frustrated by the fact that he is prohibited by the PSU policy to medicate on campus and feels he has been encouraged to use medical marijuana on campus with discretion. Due to the stigma he feels on campus, he wished to be identified only as David, an undergraduate student in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Administrators say the policy is not specific to PSU—it is simply congruent with state law.

David became an Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) patient last month, and was surprised to find he was unable to medicate on campus. He is a disabled veteran and lives in constant pain because of reconstruction surgery on both of his knees, feet and lower back. He previously eased his pain with Percocet, Oxycodone and other pain medications.

He sought a different alternative because he felt that typical prescriptions had a “horrid” affect on his “life, relationships, [and] job.” He felt that using medical marijuana was the “lesser of evils,” but stresses that it is not his choice. David does not advocate marijuana usage as a party drug.

He said he is in an “extreme amount of pain [and] deserves to be comfortable.”

David has spoken with Jeremy Robins from the Disability Resource Center and Michele Toppe, interim Dean of Students. He felt that he did not receive a clear answer about why he could not medicate or carry medical marijuana on campus.

The Housing Student Code of Conduct states that PSU residence halls are unable to accommodate medical marijuana usage in their facilities, regardless of the possession of appropriate medical marijuana authorization.

Natalee Webb, interim assistant Dean of Students, explained that it is not a PSU policy, but “it is the state’s medical marijuana statute describing the rules for use and possession,” as defined in Oregon Revised Statute 475.316(b).

 “PSU does not have a policy specifically addressing use because under that ORS, it is already defined for us,” Webb said.

Advocates say marijuana is effective in treating chronic pain and nausea, among other ailments. In Oregon, only patients with a qualified debilitating medical condition can participate in OMMP. Some qualifying medical conditions include chronic pain, cancer, glaucoma and HIV or AIDS.

Statistics, as of Jan. 1, indicate that there are currently 26,274 patients holding cards, with Multnomah County having the largest number of patient cardholders in a county at 4,466.

Oregon was the second state in the nation, after California, to create a medical-marijuana program. Other states also allow medical marijuana in some form, including Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

While California has public medical marijuana dispensaries, Oregon is unique in having public places where people can socialize and use marijuana for medicinal purposes. These are useful for patients visiting Portland who need places to medicate.

There are two public locations for medical marijuana patients to gather in Portland. Highway 420 was opened by Steve Geiger as a small lounge in the back of his tobacco products shop at 6418 SE Foster Rd. Cannabis Café is located on the first floor of 700 NE Dekum St., and is operated by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, commonly called NORML. By law, patients are not permitted to buy marijuana, but they may chip in on the cost of growing.

On Oct. 19, 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder reversed years of practice by announcing that federal authorities will not pursue marijuana users in states with medical marijuana programs.

Despite the legality of medical marijuana and OMMP patients to carry medical marijuana in Oregon, David feels he has received the message that university policy does not allow him to carry his medication on campus.

Legal status of medical marijuana

SECTION 3. ORS 475.316 is amended to read:
475.316. (1) No person authorized to possess, deliver or produce marijuana for medical use pursuant to ORS 475.300, to 475.346 shall be excepted from the criminal laws of this state or shall be deemed to have established an affirmative defense to criminal charges of which possession, delivery or production of marijuana is an element if the person, in connection with the facts giving rise to such charges:
(a) Drives under the influence of marijuana as provided in ORS 813.010;
(b) Engages in the medical use of marijuana in a public place as that term is defined in ORS 161.015, or in public view or in a correctional facility as defined in ORS 162.135 (2) or youth correctional facility as  defined in ORS 162.135 (6).

More Oregon Medical Marijuana Program data can be found at its Web site