Weed on campus: Not ready to go all the way green

Frat boys and high school photography teachers alike will have reason to rejoice this July when Measure 91 decriminalizes the possession of recreational marijuana by persons 21 and over.

The new piece of legislature will allow for adults to legally possess up to eight ounces in their homes and up to an ounce in public; private citizens will also be able to grow up to eight marijuana plants in the privacy of their own homes.

But residents of Portland State student residence halls may want to think twice before rolling their celebratory fatties: despite statewide decriminalization, Oregon university campuses will still follow their own policies regulating the substance’s use in their jurisdiction.

According to Campus Public Safety’s Police Chief Phillip Zerzan, those policies aren’t going to change any time soon.

“I can’t really foresee any changes to how we deal with marijuana possession in the near future,” Zerzan said, adding that, since Oregon universities receive funding at a federal level and the substance is illegal federally, state universities will still have to answer to their federal funders.

Like alcohol and other legal intoxicants, Measure 91 will allow the consumption of marijuana products in the privacy of users’ homes. Dorm residents, however, would do well to keep their stashes safely hidden in the sock drawer, as campus housing has retained clear policies that punish the possession of both marijuana and its various paraphernalia.

A press release from Housing and Residence Life Director Michael Walsh clearly prohibits “the possession, use, sale or distribution of any illegal drug, drug paraphernalia,” as well as “smoking any substance with any smoking device.”

Even after marijuana is legalized, clear language prohibits the use of any psychoactive herbal product, meaning medicinal marijuana is off the table as well.

“We have a smoking policy, so you wouldn’t be allowed to smoke anything inside residence halls,” Walsh said. “So for all practical purposes nothing will change. But there will be some language change in the policies, and we’ll do that this summer.”

Walsh said it’s also important to note that student housing residents currently have it a bit easier than off-campus smokers when it comes to punishment for violations.

“If someone is found to be in violation of that particular policy, there’s a number of sanctions, as we call them,” Walsh said. “Usually there’s a fine of some sort, there’s an educational element, and there’s a warning of some sort.”

One potential loophole in Residence Life’s current policy comes in edible form: Oral consumption of THC products doesn’t violate any rules that prohibit smoking, so their prohibition is less clear, at least on paper.

“The issue is the edibles, and possession by consumption, which I anticipate we will also treat like medical marijuana,” Walsh said. “So if a person has a medical marijuana card, they go off campus, use it and come back, so there’s no repercussions for consumption there.”

Even non-students should be wary when entering the PSU campus.

“Our public safety would be called and they would escort that person out of the building,” Walsh added. “Simple possession of marijuana is a violation, not a crime, so they would just be escorted out and not charged with anything.”

Ultimately, it may take quite some time and changes in federal law before PSU students can use cannabis in their homes without fear of repercussion.