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No clear policy on medical marijuana

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While some Stanford students use prescribed medical marijuana, University policy regarding the drug remains unclear due to conflicts between state and federal law, campus officials said.

“This is a complex issue fraught with ambiguity given the state and federal differences,” wrote Ralph Castro, director of the Office of Alcohol Policy & Education (OAPE), in an email to The Daily. Castro was careful to add that he does not speak for the University, but instead “as an administrator and interpreter and implementer of University policy.”

“It is my understanding that since Stanford is an institution of higher education that receives federal funding…we must abide by federal laws,” Castro said. “Federal laws do not recognize medical marijuana and as such, we don’t have University policies that recognize medical marijuana.”

Several administrators in the Office of Accessible Education, dedicated toward providing accommodations and support services for students with disabilities, said that they are unsure of the University’s policy toward medical marijuana and directed The Daily to the OAPE.

Other California universities have similarly nebulous attitudes toward student use of medical marijuana. Jerlena Griffin-Desta, director of student services for the University of California (UC) system, told SFWeekly in February that while the UC system does not have policies that endorse any kind of marijuana use, “if a student has demonstrated through documentation that this is something they must have, the university will work with the student to find reasonable accommodation.”

California legalized marijuana for medical purposes 16 years ago, and the Bay Area has become home to a growing marijuana industry. Over the past couple years, the Obama Administration has pressured the marijuana industry with legal action and raids.

Earlier this month federal agents raided an Oakland network of dispensaries and a marijuana trade school known as Oaksterdam University. The raids targeted the businesses of Richard Lee, founder of Oaksterdam University and a leading activist for marijuana legalization. Lee has since turned over control of all of his marijuana businesses, in addition to Oaksterdam.

While the medical marijuana crackdown has been viewed as a setback for the legalization movement, it has not had much of an impact on the Stanford campus. Some local dispensaries have closed, and those that have remained open are more careful to stay within state law, but several area dispensaries still deliver on campus.

According to a sophomore with a medical marijuana card who requested anonymity, most Stanford students who buy marijuana do so outside of the medical system.

“On campus having a card is really not that different from not having one,” he said. “It’s so readily available, and it’s cheaper to buy illegally–better for a college budget.”

While the sophomore said that prescription marijuana has helped him with his insomnia, the condition for which he was issued a card, he admitted that he is primarily interested in smoking recreationally.

“It is a pragmatic work-around, but I also think it is a joke,” he said. “There are doctors who prescribe that are really concerned about your health, but for the most part it is a business.”

When asked why he has a card in the first place, the student said the license provides him with access to higher quality and variety marijuana products, but for him it is also an ethical issue.

“It is kind of a joke, but it is way better than buying marijuana coming from violent drug cartels,” he said.

Palo Alto voters will decide in the upcoming November 2012 election whether or not to approve the establishment of up to three marijuana dispensary locations in the city. The initiative secured a spot on the ballot after attaining significantly more than the 4,356 required signatures, and receiving approval by the Palo Alto City Council. If approved, the initiative would also create a 4 percent tax on all medical marijuana sales.