With the recent legalization of cannabis in New Jersey, Rowan has offered course opportunities for students to be a part of the growing cannabis industry. - Photo via 6abc.com

Editor’s Note: This opinion article was written by Liam Cunningham, who is the Rowan Progressives’ Press Secretary. Cunningham sent this to The Whit on behalf of the Progressives.

Rowan Progressives calls for Rowan University to clarify an email sent on the afternoon of Feb. 23.

On Feb. 22, Gov. Philip D. Murphy signed a law into effect legalizing the recreational use of cannabis for adults 21 years and older within state borders. Subsequently, Rowan University sent out an email detailing their response to the new legislation.

  • The language of the email and the Student Code of Conduct as they currently stand have some problematic ramifications and leave too much room for confusion.
  • The Disability Services and Alcohol and Other Drugs pages don’t give up-to-date information on the legislation.
  • Policy regarding use of medical marijuana is unclear as to its permissibility and what “on-campus accommodations” entails.

“While this legislation will allow certain use and possession, unless or until federal law changes, marijuana is NOT and will not be permitted on Rowan University’s campuses, property, or facilities and will be subject to Rowan’s Student Code of Conduct.”

The quote above, taken from the email entitled “[Extra-Students]: Cannabis: Legalized in NJ, Still Against University Policy,” was sent to all registered students on Feb. 23 at 5:04 p.m. Shortly thereafter, the executive board of Rowan Progressives reviewed the email, the appropriate section of Rowan’s Student Code of Conduct (Attachment 3 Sections 1 and 11), the Alcohol and Other Drugs page and the Disability Resources page. 

It is our conclusion that the university’s statement is ambiguous regarding when cannabis use is allowed, on or off campus. The university is responsible for their students and as such, have an obligation to make it easier for students to use medicine that is critical to their well-being without punishment or restriction.

Furthermore, the Disability Resources page on Medical Marijuana FAQs is unclear. In one paragraph, it tells students that “the use and/or possession of medical marijuana on Rowan’s campuses is prohibited.” The next paragraph refers students to contact the Academic Success Center and Disability Resources for “on-campus accommodations.”

Finally, it says that any students caught with cannabis (with or without a card) will be reprimanded according to university, state and federal laws. There needs to be more clarity and guidance for this issue, and policies should be updated to reflect the change in New Jersey state law.

In response to the concerns stated above, Rowan Progressives calls on President Ali Houshmand, the Rowan University board of trustees, Wellness Center Director Scott Woodside, Academic Success Center and Disabilities Resources Director John Woodruff and Dean of Students Kevin Koett to commit to these actions:

First, we call on these leaders to create an updated policy with regards to medicinal use of marijuana while on our campuses and/or during university sponsored events. Additionally, we call for assurance that police officers will not be summoned to handle enforcement of university policies which forbid what is now (at the state level) legal recreational use. Lastly, we call on the university to immediately clarify their statement on the new cannabis policy in further detail.

Specifically, we are calling for clarification on the statements that the new legislation would “be subject to Rowan’s Student Code of Conduct” alongside that code of conduct’s Attachment 3 Section 1 which prohibits “Violating promulgated university rules, regulations and policies, whether on or off campus” and Attachment 3 Section 11, which prohibits “Possessing, using, manufacturing, distributing, or attempting to distribute narcotics, dangerous drugs, controlled dangerous substances, or drug paraphernalia that are prohibited by federal, state or local laws, or university policies, or knowingly being present at the time of the prohibited conduct.”

These clauses lead us to believe the university is essentially putting in place a de facto ban on cannabis use or being within the proximity of cannabis use by Rowan students over the age of 21, regardless of the activities occurring on or off campus. If this was not the intended effect, then we implore Rowan to change their decision to unfairly punish students over 21 for exercising their recently earned right to use cannabis in the state of New Jersey.

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