The WELL, UCR’s wellness center and health promotion department, sent an email to all UCR students on Monday, Oct. 30 regarding the impending legalization of recreational marijuana under California state law starting in 2018. The email, entitled “Get the facts on Marijuana,” outlined how UC Riverside’s students should react to marijuana legalization.
The email states that because UCR receives federal funding, it upholds federal law over state law. It goes on to list some of the detriments of marijuana use including learning impairment, slowed reflexes, increased risks of lung cancer, and potential dependence. The email also suggests several solutions to the consequences of marijuana use. Such suggestions include limiting marijuana use to avoid dependence, avoiding use prior to activities requiring focus and trying alternatives to smoking such as vaporizers and edibles. The third and final section highlights campus resources to assist students who are dependent on marijuana, including Counseling and Psychological Services, Case Management and other student services.
In an email interview with The Highlander, WELL Director Devon Sakamoto explained that, “We want to make sure people know that although marijuana is now legal in California for those 21 and over, it is not allowed on campus due to federal regulations, and the federal funding UC receives.” Regarding the effects of marijuana use, she claimed that there is research and evidence showing that marijuana has both benefits and harms, but that the main purpose the WELL serves is to ensure that UCR students are as safe and well-informed as possible when they make decisions.
During the interview, Sakamoto also went on to offer a more specific set of recommendations about marijuana use that were not included in the email release. These tips included avoiding marijuana use before driving, using it primarily in the presence of trusted friends, not mixing it with other drugs or alcohol, not inhaling nor holding smoke in, not mixing with tobacco and making sure to keep track of how often you smoke marijuana. She explained that UCR has various ways to help students make decisions about marijuana; resources on the WELL website include a brief online assessment accessible by UCR students, along with links to peer health education groups and health educators who can speak one-on-one with students. In addition, the WELL can refer students to off-campus resources as needed.
The WELL’s email release emphasizes the potential federal repercussions of using marijuana, which are explained in further detail on their website. It lists them as, “dismissal, a $1,000 fine and up to a year in prison for a first time possession offence.” However, in an email interview with the Highlander, University of California Police Department (UCPD) Lieutenant Jason Day, revealed a different perspective on the repercussions of marijuana use. He clarified that “The release is citing Federal Law and University Policy. Unless there is a direct connection to a California State law, UCPD does not enforce UC Riverside administrative policies … Student misconduct is handled by Student Conduct and Academic Integrity Programs (SCAIP), which is not a part of the UCPD. From a legal standpoint, violating a law of the State of California can result in a fine or incarceration, be it a law concerning marijuana or otherwise.” UCR does not rely on UCPD to enforce its anti-drug policies; the entities that enforce these policies are federal agencies, such as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
“Regardless of what we see as the potential benefits or drawbacks, the People of the State of California have declared that they wish the recreational use of marijuana to be legal,” said Day. “As we are public servants to the citizens of this state, we will enforce the laws as they are written.”