Though Washington voters approved the legalization of marijuana, Gonzaga will hold tight to its strict anti-drug policy on campus.
Currently, Gonzaga follows the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act. According to the official school website, “The regulations require that, as a condition for receiving federal financial assistance, an institution of higher education must certify that it has adopted and implemented a program to prevent the unlawful possession, use, or distribution of illicit drugs and alcohol by its students and employees on school premises or as part of any of its activities.”
There has already been some confusion with the mix of federal and state policies; this initiative authorizes small amounts of marijuana for recreational use, while the federal government has yet to accept legalization of the the drug.
Sue Weitz, vice president of student life, said, “I actually think it will cause us to have greater communication with students.”
Weitz noted that Gonzaga Student Life is in contact with the Spokane Police Department, and is awaiting further notice from authorities on how to deal with the contradicting laws. “Don’t get too excited yet,” said Weiss. “There are a lot of things to be worked out.”
Weitz recently sent out a email to all Gonzaga students, addressing the law passing as it relates to Gonzaga’s drug free campus. In her email, Weitz said: “The new law is by no means a free pass to grow, possess, and use marijuana without any conditions or restrictions. The University’s current drug policy remains in place and we do not anticipate any changes. The distribution, possession and use of marijuana, and the possession of marijuana paraphernalia, is prohibited for all Gonzaga community members.”
The email was sent out due to confusion among students.
“People were saying we can smoke pot on campus,” said Weitz. “I heard people saying ‘This is great!’ ”
Weitz also noted that she received several responses to the email reminding students of GU’s zero drug tolerance. “I was pleased that they had taken enough time to read it and send questions,” said Weitz.
According to Weitz, GU will continue with the current drug enforcement policy until it receives direction from the federal government.
Even with the legalization of marijuana statewide, students could still face serious consequences with the federal law.
“Drug convictions precludes a student from receiving federal aid,” said Jeff Hart, assistant dean of student life, in a written statement regarding the main issues surrounding the marijuana bill. Students who work for a licensed marijuana retailer “may be federally prosecuted ... and subsequently lose aid eligibility,” said Hart.
However, Hart cannot foresee a marijuana facility being placed near campus.
“It’s highly doubtful any type of state-authorized marijuana facility would be located near Gonzaga,” said Hart. “Such activity [would be] a violation of the solicitation policy.”
Looking to the future, Weitz noted that it will probably not be until next school year that students will notice major changes regarding policy and enforcement at the state and federal levels.
“[The University will] try to keep things clear ... [and] keep students connected as things come through,” she said.