Pubdate: Thu, 01 Mar 2012
Source: Tucson Weekly (AZ)
Copyright: 2012 Tucson Weekly
Author: Tim Vanderpool


Conservatives in the Arizona Legislature Want Guns Galore on 
Campus-but Not a Whiff of Weed

Sometimes, a parallel universe just smacks you upside the head. One 
such moment occurred recently, when the Arizona Legislature birthed a 
pair of bills that would-conversely-allow gun fanatics to pack heat 
on campus, and ensure that sick students can't toke medical marijuana.

One bill has the support of college muckety-mucks; the other most 
definitely does not. But in this alternate reality called Arizona, 
neither measure is much of a surprise.

The gun bill, Senate Bill 1474, yet another love child from our 
firearm-adoring lawmakers, would allow folks to carry weapons onto 
the UA and other campuses. It's based on the notion that heavily 
armed students and faculty members could be perpetually poised to 
draw down on massacre-minded nutcases. This is the tweaked-up version 
of a measure vetoed last year by Gov. Jan Brewer-and it is still 
fiercely opposed by the campus establishment.

By contrast, the marijuana bill-introduced by Phoenix Republican Rep. 
Amanda Reeve, and enjoying the endorsement of university 
chieftains-would ensure that the demon weed does not waft its way 
through Arizona's halls of higher learning. That's despite the fact 
that voters approved the use of medical marijuana statewide in 2010.

The anti-pot measure, known as House Bill 2349, passed a House vote on Feb. 16.

Reeve didn't return numerous phone calls seeking comment for this 
article. But her effort follows several failed attempts by Brewer and 
state Attorney General Tom Horne to hogtie the Arizona Medical 
Marijuana Act. Their various maneuvers-from suing cannabis clubs to 
refusing to license dispensaries-hit a wall in January, when Maricopa 
County Superior Court Judge Richard Gama ordered Brewer to implement 
the new law.

Thus, the people's will was upheld-except perhaps on taxpayer-funded 
college campuses. While the original act prohibits medical marijuana 
in public schools, there were no such restrictions for universities. 
Reeve's measure would change that, in a move likely to spark a pricey 
court challenge.

Reeve was prodded along in her efforts by Kristen Boilini, a lobbyist 
working for several community colleges. A call to Boilini's Phoenix 
firm, K.R.B. Consulting, was not returned.

But C.J. Karamargin, a spokesman for Pima Community College, says 
there's little ambiguity on his campus. "The federal position on this 
is pretty clear. And we're not going to do anything to violate the law."

The restrictions were also strongly supported by the Arizona Board of 
Regents, which governs the state's public universities. "Drugs don't 
have a place in a university environment," says board spokeswoman Katie Paquet.

To flesh that out, Paquet forwarded the board's official statement. 
It cites the federal Drug-Free Workplace Act, and the Drug-Free 
Schools and Communities Act, which announce that "no institution of 
higher education shall be eligible to receive funds or any other form 
of financial assistance under any federal program, including 
participation in any federally funded or guaranteed student-loan 
program, unless it has adopted and has implemented a program to 
prevent the use of illicit drugs and abuse of alcohol by students and 

But here's the rub: That threat is pure hokum. In an earlier 
interview with the Tucson Weekly, U.S. Department of Education 
spokeswoman Sara Gast told us that student loans hardly seem at risk. 
"I checked with our federal student-aid office," Gast said, "and 
there has never been any school that has lost their eligibility for 
Title IV funds due to allowing medical marijuana."

Among other things, Title IV funds refer to direct federal student 
loans provided to universities. Approximately $200 million of those 
funds are awarded to the UA each year.

Nor have schools seen their federal research money cut as punishment 
for breaching federal drug laws, says Morgan Fox of the Marijuana 
Policy Project, based in Washington, D.C. "I've never heard of a case 
of federal funds being pulled back or restricted from campuses or 
their research programs with regards to medical marijuana. As long as 
schools have a drug-free policy in place, most schools are able to 
work out clauses where they can make exceptions to it."

According to Morgan, 17 states and the District of Columbia currently 
allow medical marijuana, and another 17 are considering such a move. 
And in many of those states, he says, universities are taking an 
approach far different from their Arizona counterparts. "Most 
institutions will have a policy against marijuana use," he says, "and 
they can keep that policy in place while not going after patients who 
have medical-marijuana needs. They can make case-by-case exceptions 
for those cases, and many institutions do."

In the meantime, the UA Police Department treads a tenuous line. 
Department spokesman Sgt. Juan Alvarez didn't return a phone call 
seeking comment for this story. But in an earlier interview, he said 
students found with legitimate medical marijuana would be referred to 
the dean of students rather than face arrest. Associate Dean of 
Students Kendal Washington White also failed to return several phone 
calls seeking comment. But in the past, her office's stated policy 
was that students caught with medical marijuana would be placed on 
academic probation, required to perform community-service work, and 
run through a drug-education program.

Longtime Tucson medical-marijuana advocate Michelle Graye says these 
conflicting laws make little sense on a modern campus. "What a 
schizophrenic position to put the university in. They say, 'We don't 
allow drugs on our campus.' But in what world are alcohol and 
marijuana not the same things? Then the crazy Legislature is using 
the (federal funding) as a wedge against them."

Ultimately, the UA will probably face a lawsuit to weed things out, 
says Jaime Gutierrez, the school's vice president for external 
relations. "I suspect that this is going to be litigated, and 
somewhere along the line, the courts are going to have to decide. But 
it's our position right now that the federal law is supreme, absent a 
court decision."

In the meantime, Gutierrez says the UA will stick to its 
guns-regardless of whether research funding or student aid is 
actually being withheld. "I'm certain the University of Arizona is 
not going to make this a trial case to see if we can continue getting 
financial aid and allow employees and students to use medicinal marijuana."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom