Attorney General Jeff Sessions has decided to rescind the Cole memorandum, which means the federal government will no longer look the other way when it comes to legalized marijuana. This is not only a betrayal of his promises made to senators like Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., but also President Trump is turning on his campaign promise to leave states with legalized marijuana alone.
Universities, however, will not see a change in their enforcement policies since they already enforce federal drug laws. Marijuana is illegal under the Controlled Substance Act of 1970, and, in the eyes of the federal government (and universities apparently), it is no better than heroin. University administrations, such as my own at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo of California, argue that since marijuana is illegal under federal law, it should be illegal on their campus.
Of course, ask them to extend that argument to federal immigration laws, and you run into a different story. Universities are actively defying the president’s administration on immigration, especially with regard to DACA recipients. University administrators, such as the ones at Cal Poly, actually advise you to call your local police department if you get confronted by a federal agent asking about your immigration status.
Of course, universities will argue that the two are different. DACA, which is set to expire in March unless Congress acts, affects 800,000 young adults who came to the U.S. as children. These are people who will have their entire lives destroyed, and universities want to protect them from federal immigration officers. Although I understand their concern, it doesn’t make a lick of sense not to extend that rationale to marijuana.
Marijuana is not a dangerous drug, in that no one has ever died from a marijuana overdose. While there is research to suggest that marijuana is responsible for more DUIs and car crashes, there is also research to suggest that it doesn’t. In addition, states who legalized medical marijuana have seen fewer traffic deaths.
Cal Poly is a wet campus and allows alcohol to be sold on campus, despite it being responsible for more death and destruction than marijuana. Campus administrators in California believe that a culture of consumption can be controlled through regulations, but it will not extend that courtesy to marijuana.
Marijuana is also shown to have some medical benefits, though students aren’t able to light up a joint unless they’re in their own home (and federal agents still could raid that private dwelling). Students who have a medical marijuana card may find themselves out of luck if they can’t find a private residence and have to stay on campus — and given how expensive it is to live in California, campus dorms are often the only places students can afford to live.
University administrators think they have the right to choose which federal laws to enforce. They exhibit their discretionary capabilities by rejecting immigration law while enforcing marijuana laws. This lack of consistency is dangerous, even if it is done with good intentions.
Universities should either enforce federal laws or not. This picking and choosing of which laws to enforce send mixed signals to students whose lives hang in the balance, such as those with medical marijuana cards or with DACA status.
Elias J. Atienza is student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.