According to Rowan University, marijuana possession remains prohibited under federal law and, as a result, isn’t permitted on Rowan University property. - Photo via Creative Commons

On Feb. 22, Gov. Phil Murphy signed adult-use cannabis reform bills into law, legalizing cannabis use and possession for adults 21 years and older; however, Rowan University’s policy on cannabis has mostly remained the same.

According to Rowan University, marijuana possession remains prohibited under federal law and, as a result, isn’t permitted on Rowan University property. The email cites Rowan’s Student Code of Conduct as a point of reference for further questions. Still, it avoids offering specific details as to why adult users and medicinal patients are not exceptions to Rowan’s policy.

The student-run Rowan Progressives club shared an announcement on Twitter, calling on Rowan University to offer a more apparent stance on issues like medical marijuana and adult recreational use.

While Rowan University could offer more specific details for students, they are limited mainly due to the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act Amendments of 1989, which still apply to universities in states with legalization.

“Marijuana is still considered a schedule-1 controlled dangerous substance on the federal level; just because the state decriminalized it doesn’t mean the federal government approves,” said Michael Kantner, the assistant vice president of public safety and emergency management coordinator. “That doesn’t mean we will charge you with a federal crime, but you can’t have it on campus because that could affect federal funding and put Rowan in a libelous position.”

Instead of a federal charge, students found in possession or smoking cannabis on campus will be subject to student-life disciplinary programs, much like the school has done before legalization.

“We try to use discretion to educate the future leaders of society. Instead of going through the criminal justice system on the law and public safety side, [students] mainly go through the student-conduct side through community standards in student life,” said Kantner.

According to Rowan’s code of conduct, students who are found responsible for code violations that involve alcohol or drug use may be required to attend educational programs intended to inform them about substance abuse.

“If you have marijuana on campus, we can still confiscate it; it’s not your weed anymore, and we will let student life know,” said Kantner. “The university has a little more leeway in handling it than a municipality because we have student conduct. We also have human resources for employees and staff who violate it.”

Like every other law enforcement organization, Rowan’s public safety department has to adjust quickly to the new laws.

“It’s not totally new for us; we did prepare but what shocked me was that the governor made it effective immediately — that shocked a lot of municipalities in New Jersey. So now law enforcement up to the New Jersey Attorney General’s office is trying to deal with educating the enforcement community,” said Kantner.

The New Jersey Office of the Attorney General Department of Law and Public Safety released the Interim Guidance Regarding Marijuana Decriminalization, which gives law enforcement a guideline on how to proceed enforcing the new law.

“They are going to regulate cannabis, but they haven’t formed a commission yet. It’s an ongoing and fluid process that public safety has taken, and one we have been doing for a little bit; we just need to follow the new recommendations,” said Kantner.

According to the Interim Guidance Regarding Marijuana Decriminalization, people under the age of 21 who are found for the first time with marijuana will receive a written warning; however, it will not be provided to the individual’s parents or guardians.

While the Interim Guidance Regarding Marijuana Decriminalization states that possession of marijuana or hashish as a motor vehicle operator no longer violates state law, it is still considered a traffic violation that can result in license suspension.

“Technically, you won’t be charged for having marijuana in your car under a certain amount criminally, but you still can get a ticket for it. You may end up at traffic court, which could result in license suspension. Just because the criminal laws were lessened doesn’t mean the traffic laws aren’t still valid, it’s no free ride,” said Kantner.

The only exception for the presence of cannabis on campus is for the purpose of Rowan University’s research, which Kantner states as a point of discussion between divisions in Rowan University.

“The bottom line is we are here for the health and safety of students and the Rowan community. Public safety prepared ourselves to see this trend that was going to happen, so we want to educate our students,” said Kantner.

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