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T HE P OIN T- C OUN T ERP OIN T P UBL IC AT ION FOR M A R CH 2 0, 2 011

fig. 1, medical marijuana

fig. 2, weed

THE MARIJUANA ISSUE


P OIN T • CONNOR MacHUGH & SEBA S T I A N S WA E–SH A MPINE

Legalize! Protect our People The University is morally obligated to allow medical marijuana patients their rights. Imagine, if you will, two University of Michigan students are crossing the Diag on their way to class. Both suffer from medical conditions, leaving them with debilitating pain. For the purposes of this scenario, let’s assume that the only difference between these two characters is what they carry in their pockets. The first student’s pocket contains a bottle of physician-prescribed oxycodone. This drug, commonly marketed as Oxycontin, is a strong opioid painkiller and has substantial potential for abuse and addiction. In the eyes of the University’s legal code, this student is freely permitted to take out his bottle and consume his needed medication on campus, with no possible consequence under state or university policy. The second student’s pocket contains two items: a Michigan Department of Community Health-issued Medical Marijuana registration card and a small amount of medical cannabis. As opposed to the first student (who can transport and consume his oxycodone with impunity), the hapless medical cannabis patient is subject to punishment simply for possession of his own medicine. This bizarre and discriminatory discrepancy exists in the interest of the University’s Alcohol and Other Drugs Policy (AOD). Since the University is a state institution, the policy clearly states that, “the property occupied by the University of Michigan is under the jurisdiction of the laws of the state of Michigan.” However, the AOD policy directly contradicts itself just one paragraph later: it states that the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA) conflicts with laws “requiring institutions receiving federal funds, by grant or contract, to maintain drug-free campuses and workplaces. The University of Michigan receives federal funding that would be in jeopardy if those federal laws did not take precedence over state law.” The reason, then, that the University feels that it may have the right to haphazardly contradict itself at the expense of the liberties of its students is to protect its large, federally-funded research budget and student financial aid. Volume 24 Issue 17

Certainly, the medical marijuana policies are complicated everywhere: laws written at the state level often stand in direct conflict with federal law. Although state institutions should follow the laws of the state, many schools are hesitant to compromise their federal funding. While the University’s funding is critical to its ability to continue ranking among the best, it also has a longstanding reputation for being a leader of social progress. In order to continue in its leadership role, the University of Michigan should comply with state law and recognize medical cannabis patients’ rights on campus. The University must also remember why the research is implemented in the first place: to find remedies for existing conditions. Denying a prevailing cure in pursuit of finding another cure is deteriorating the purpose of scientific research and innovation. Historically, Ann Arbor’s progressive attitudes towards marijuana rights have emboldened the pressure on the University to allow for medical marijuana patients’ liberties. Amidst a shifting attitude towards stricter federal government policy towards drug possession, 1974 marked the city’s passage of ordinances reducing the penalty for possessing marijuana to solely a civil infraction. The trend continues—in 2004, by referendum, Ann Arbor passed a proposal allowing for community members to use and dispense medical marijuana. These local governmental actions don’t imply a “city of stoners” or “hippies,” but rather they reveal important parts of Ann Arbor’s commitment to social justice and ability to look beyond fear based propaganda against the safe and rationally endorse medicinal use of marijuana. It is critical that the University of Michigan recognize the will of the surrounding community, fostering an ideology that local voices are important, especially in opposition to material concerns. Since the MMMA was approved in November 2008, nearly 50,000 Michigan residents have been qualified for a cannabis license to treat conditions from Multiple Sclerosis to HIV and AIDS. If the state is willing to acknowledge and support the needs of these patients, how could the University of Michigan (who research and advocate for such medical cures) possibly deny their own students this legitimate and current usage? It is fundamentally unacceptable to arrest or fine a student using marijuana with a doctor’s permission. Essentially, the institution’s morals are being sacrificed because of financial incentives.

To be clear, the only right that medical cannabis patients are being denied is the right to possess and transport their medicine on campus. It is important to note that the law does not prohibit the possession of legal medical cannabis at institutions of higher education. Section 7 of the MMMA, titled “Limitations,” does not permit patients to “possess marihuana, or otherwise engage in the medical use of marijuana: (a) in a school bus; (b) on the grounds of any preschool or primary or secondary school;” or to “Smoke marihuana: (a) on any form of public transportation; or (b) in any public place.” Furthermore, the Department of Justice sent a memo to all United States attorneys in October of 2009 reiterating its commitment to “making efficient and rational use of its limited investigative and prosecutorial resources.” This memo instructs all US attorneys that they “should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.” With this in mind, it is reasonable and even imperative to assume that the University need not fear reprimand from the federal government for permitting medical cannabis patients to possess their legal medicine on campus. As a leading state institution, the University of Michigan should take the initiative in securing the rights and liberties of its students as it has proudly done for so many years. It is unjust and intolerable that a student could face prosecution simply for possessing a physician-recommended medication in accordance with state law. In the summer of 2012, it will be the University’s responsibility to implement a change to the AOD policy that will recognize patient rights on campus to possess and use medical cannabis. Connor is a senior at the University and an active member of the Inter-Cooperative Council of Ann Arbor. He is currently a History major in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts and plans to participate in the Peace Corps. Sebastian is a second-year student of Spanish and Latin American and Caribbean Studies. They are both members of U-M’s Students for Sensible Drug Policy.


COUN T ERP OIN T • NOEL GORDON

Don’t Legalize! Protect our Money The University needs to prioritize the loss of federal funds over allowing medical marijuana patients their rights. Catering to the interests of over 40,000 students can be difficult for any college or university. But this seems especially true when the will of the student body stands in direct opposition to the rule of law. In the case of medicinal marijuana, the University has certainly found itself caught in between the proverbial rock and a hard place. When Michigan voters passed the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA) back in 2008, many students hailed it as an important milestone in the ongoing debate over the legalization. It left the University, however, in a terribly uncomfortable situation. While Michigan is indeed an institution of the state, and thus bound by state law, the University procures much of its funding from the federal government, which requires that it enforce federal law as well. This includes, of course, the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act, which mandates that any college or university receiving federal funds “certify that it has adopted and implemented a program to prevent the unlawful possession, use, or distribution of illicit drugs and alcohol by students and employees.” This would not typically carry much weight except for the fact that federal funding plays a crucial role in allowing the University to maintain its status and prestige both at home and abroad. Known for its commitment to producing scholarly writing and research, the University of Michigan receives a substantial amount of money from Congress to do just that. For example, in 2010, the University received more than $277 million dollars in funding from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA). And according to a 2010 report written by Michigan’s Chief Financial Officer, Tim Slottow, “Federally funded research spending rose 15 percent over the previous fiscal year, which [accounts] for 66 percent of total research expenditures.” Slottow goes on to say later in the report that “one of the year’s largest ARRA grants was a $19.5 million, five–year award from

the Department of Energy to establish the Center for Solar and Thermal Energy Conversion in Complex Materials. Researchers at the center will study complex materials on the nanoscale, searching for new ways to convert sunlight and heat into electricity.” This kind of research would simply not be possible without the federal funds provided to the University. We are talking about millions of dollars awarded annually to support the types of projects that cure diseases, discover new species and create the technology of tomorrow. I’m not much of a utilitarian, but it seems to me that the University should not do anything to jeopardize its ability to produce award-winning, and often lifechanging, research. To do otherwise would be to deny Michigan students the opportunity to work on these amazing projects, and to deny the rest of the world the opportunity to benefit from them. Now those who disagree with me are quick to point to a memo released by the US Attorney’s Office instructing officials not to waste government resources on “individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.” But if you look closely, the memo says absolutely nothing about the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act; it mentions only briefly the Controlled Substances Act. Therefore, the University should continue to err on the side of caution and prohibit the use of medical marijuana on school grounds. Anyone who suggests otherwise does so at the expense of the many people who depend on the research produced at the University. It is important to point out that this debate does not hinge on whether patients should be given access to marijuana for medicinal purposes. It would be grossly naïve to suggest that cannabis has zero curative or remedial effects. Indeed, such an accusation would be completely without warrant and stand in direct opposition to years of anecdotal evidence. Instead, this debate turns on whether the University should permit students to use medicinal marijuana on campus-owned property. As far as I am concerned, the answer is a clear and resounding “no.” The University would do well to continue its current policy, or at the very least, designate certain areas wherein students could take their medication. It should not, however, take any course of action that would en-

danger federal funds and or possibly invite federal sanctions. Doing so would directly undermine the University of Michigan’s mission statement, which is to “provide access to and participation in scholarly and creative endeavors on a vast scale” since “our academic research enterprise affects the [entire] world.” The University is “defined by a culture of interdisciplinary teaching and research, coupled with academic rigor.” Doing anything to jeopardize federal funds would adversely affect the Michigan community and impair future scientific discoveries. If permitting the use of medical marijuana on campus will jeopardize our ability to produce vital research, it is not in the best interest of the University to do so. The author is a sophomore at the University of Michigan majoring in Political Science and double-minoring in Moral & Political Philosophy as well as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer & Sexuality Studies. He is a co-founder of the Michigan Political Union.

March 20, 2011


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FIVE THINGS about Medical Marijuana A small minority of Americans—less than one percent—smoke marijuana on a daily basis.

Drugpolicy.org

Marijuana arrests in the US doubled between 1991 and 1995. In 1995, more than half a million people were arrested for marijuana offenses. Drugpolicy.org

“Marijuana” is a Mexican term that was originally applied to low-quality tobacco.

Marijuana smoke, like cigarettes, contains carcinogens, although, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana has not been proven to cause lung cancer. CBS News Ann Arbor was early to decriminalize marijuana, and in 1975 the Ann Arbor Sun newspaper ran a contest with a grand prize of one pound of marijuana. Wikipedia

US News & World Report

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