Harvard Students Hope Marijuana Legalization Will Change Campus Culture

Harvard University, one of the nation’s most revered academic institutions, now resides in a state where people can legally possess and partake of recreational marijuana.

Massachusetts voters approved legalized recreational marijuana in November, joining Alaska, California, Colorado, Oregon, Maine, Nevada, Washington and the District of Columbia.

According to The Harvard Crimson, the university student newspaper, some students at the Ivy League school are hoping that legal cannabis will change things at the venerable academic institution.

Harvard’s Marijuana Campus Culture

“I hope [legalization] will change Harvard culture,” recent Harvard graduate Sonia E. Espinosa told the newspaper.  “Look at our campus, how many freshmen end up going to the Harvard University Police Department from drinking, and compare that to the number of students that have to go seek medical attention from cannabis.”

“I think you’re going to notice a really big difference,” Espinosa added.

A current student echoed those thoughts, saying he hopes legalization will end up creating social spaces on campus for those who want to partake of marijuana rather than alcohol. “I think that’s a safer environment than alcohol,” he said.

School Policy

While some students welcome the change, it is expected that at Harvard University – as with other schools in states where recreational marijuana is legal – that extra effort will go into educating students about the law.

In short: Just because marijuana is legal in your state, it doesn’t mean you can use cannabis on campus.

The Massachusetts marijuana law restricts use to private homes. It’s illegal on public school campuses and in public parks. Also, any person under the age of 21 cannot possess or partake of marijuana. It’s also a crime to give someone under 21 any amount of cannabis.

All of this will mean that law enforcement will deal with a whole new set of issues with legalization. And college students need to be aware of the details of the law.

Harvard Hasn’t Made Changes Yet

In another Crimson article, the Harvard police chief and a spokesperson for the university refused to comment on what, if any, changes will be made to the school’s current drug and alcohol policy.

Current policy bans the possession and use of marijuana by all students. It also forbids the use of cannabis in any university building or public space.

While a private school, Harvard does receive federal research grant dollars, and marijuana remains an illegal drug under federal law. Many other colleges also receive federal dollars for a variety of programs. And with marijuana illegal at the federal level, most schools in states where recreational marijuana is legal continue to ban cannabis from campus.

So while students hope marijuana changes the culture at Harvard, the new law actually puts the school directly in the center of the debate between state laws legalizing marijuana and federal laws making it illegal.

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