Pomona Clarifies Medical Marijuana Policy

On Jan. 28, the Student Affairs Committee (SAC) at Pomona College proposed a change to the school’s student handbook that would make it clear: no weed, no matter the need.

Vice President and Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum sent an e-mail to the student body to notify them of the proposed clarification, which would explicitly state that even with a documented medical need for marijuana, students are not allowed to have the substance on campus.

“This was not a change in policy; this was a clarification in policy,” Feldblum said.

The handbook does not currently contain a clause specifically about medical marijuana, but it prohibits students from possessing, manufacturing, or distributing the drug on campus. It also states that the college complies with federal, state, and local law.

Although California state law allows residents to use and grow marijuana if they have a documented medical need, federal law classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug and prohibits its manufacture, distribution, and possession.

The new wording would state that as Pomona complies with federal law regarding marijuana, students who have a documented medical need for marijuana are not exempt from the drug policy, and they may speak with the Dean of Campus Life to apply to live off campus if they require the use of medical marijuana.

For the most part, students have not reacted strongly to the proposal.

“I saw a couple things on Facebook that seemed a little bummed about it, but it wasn’t that overwhelming,” Caitlin Plefka PO '13 said. “We already have policies that prohibit marijuana use on campus ... It sounds reasonable.”

Many students reported not even opening the e-mail.

“I think people are just going to ignore the policy if they want to,"Plefka said.

Still, many students believe that those with a medical need for marijuana should be allowed to use it on campus.

“I think that if it’s something that’s going to improve their lives ... then that’s something they should have,” Kyra Sweeney PO ’16 said.

Feldblum also said that the SAC has received a few comments from students asking why Pomona must follow federal law rather than state law.

“Federal law takes precedence over state law,” she said. “That’s just a constitutional issue.”

She added that Pomona could lose federal funding if found to be violating federal law. Feldblum also noted that the clarification was not a response to any specific student requesting a medical marijuana exemption.

“I will say that over the past few years, this has probably come up at the SAC as something we may want to do,” she said.

Last semester, Nikki Redford PO ’13, then an SAC member and a Resident Adviser (RA), brought the issue up again at a committee meeting.

She said that during RA training, she read the school’s drug policy and thought it could lead to some confusion if a resident had a medical marijuana card and did not understand why they were not allowed to have marijuana on campus.

“It was definitely coming from an RA’s point of view, but also a student’s,” Redford said. “It’s about making people feel safe, making sure they feel comfortable but don’t have their rights infringed on.”

Feldblum said that when writing the policy for Pomona’s handbook, the SAC looked at Claremont McKenna College’s policy, which states that students may not use marijuana on campus even if they have proper documentation.

She added that Occidental College added a similar clarification to its drug policy several years ago.

Students can comment on the proposed change until Feb. 28, after which the SAC will vote on its approval.