PULLMAN, Wash. – When Washington Initiative 502, which legalizes the possession of marijuana and ultimately its manufacture and sale, becomes effective on Thursday, nothing will change at Washington State University.
 
University officials have developed the following question-and-answer piece designed to clarify WSU’s approach to the new initiative.
 
What does Initiative 502 do and when does it go into effect?
Initiative 502 legalizes the possession of marijuana and marijuana-enhanced products and ultimately their manufacture and sale. As of Dec. 6, 2012, when I-502 becomes effective, persons 21 years of age or older will be able to possess up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use in private settings.
 
However, the State Liquor Control Board has until December 2013 to establish a licensing system for the manufacture and sale of marijuana; this system must be in place before people may legally manufacture and sell marijuana.
 
I-502 prohibits the consumption of marijuana in public spaces and driving under the influence of marijuana.
 
The upshot of all of this is that, while there will not be any licensed places to buy marijuana for another year, as of Dec. 6 you can have up to an ounce of marijuana in your off-campus home if you are 21 or older.
 
But read on because this is not the case on campus.
 
What about federal law?
I-502 is a state law. It does not and cannot repeal federal laws. Federal criminal law continues to prohibit the licensed or unlicensed production and sale of marijuana, as well as possession and use.
 
Institutions of higher education must maintain and enforce drug-free policies on campus or risk losing federally funded financial aid, grant programs and contracts. The federal Drug-Free Schools Act requires maintenance of drug-free campuses for receipt of federal funding for financial aid. The federal Drug-Free Workplace Act requires public institutions of higher education seeking federal grants and contracts to certify that they will keep drugs out of the workplace.
 
In short, universities, including WSU, will still follow federal law.
 
What will change on campus?
Essentially nothing. WSU’s policies and regulations prohibiting the use and possession of marijuana on campus and in the workplace remain in effect. These policies must remain in place in order for us to continue to receive federal grants, contracts and funding for financial aid, which are essential for any public university.
 
This means that although acts that are no longer illegal under state law will not be subject to criminal penalties, they still will be university policy violations and will be processed through the appropriate employee or student process. The university has an obligation to have and enforce its drug-free policies.
 
For example, if a student age 21 or older is found possessing a quarter ounce of marijuana in a dorm room, the student will be subject to discipline under the student code of conduct. Likewise, if an employee is found possessing a quarter ounce of marijuana in his or her office, the employee will be subject to discipline under the applicable employee policies.
 
And it remains the case that individuals who violate state law, such as those under 21 possessing any quantity of marijuana, will be subject to criminal penalties by the state as well as university discipline.   
 
Additional information regarding I-502 and its implementation is available at:
 
 
 
Seattle Police Department guide to legal marijuana use in Seattle:
http://spdblotter.seattle.gov/2012/11/09/marijwhatnow-a-guide-to-legal-marijuana-use-in-seattle/