Pubdate: Thu, 20 Feb 2014
Source: Morning Sun (Mt. Pleasant, MI)
Copyright: 2014 Morning Sun
Author: Randi Shaffer


Lower Punishment Sought for Possession

A group of Central Michigan University students are taking action to 
lower the level of punishment a student would receive if he or she 
were caught on campus with marijuana.

Ian Elliott, president of Student Advocates for Medical and 
Recreational Cannabis, said his registered student organization has 
successfully passed an amendment through the student house and senate 
to reduce punishment for marijuana possession violations from the 
level of harder drugs, such as heroin and methamphetamine, down to 
the level of alcohol.

"We asked that the marijuana penalties and policies be changed so 
that a student would be punished to a degree no greater than that of 
an alcohol violation," Elliott said. "That's one thing that we asked; 
that marijuana be separated from the rest of the controlled 
substances first and given its own classification."

Elliott said the bill has been sent to SGA President Marie Reimers, 
who can either pass, pocket veto or veto the bill.

If the bill is vetoed, it can still pass with a two-thirds vote of 
the house and senate, Elliott said.

"The last indication that I got from her was that she was still 
debating what she was going to do with it," he said.

Elliott said he is confident that, if vetoed, the bill would garner 
the two-thirds majority needed to head to the school's office of conduct.

Tom Idema, CMU's director of student conduct, said that ultimately 
the bill has no bearing on the university's controlled substances policy.

"We will always listen to student input in our code of conduct," 
Idema said. "But I don't see this happening."

Idema said the office uses the federal government's definition of 
"controlled substances" in its written policy.

As long as the government defines marijuana as a controlled 
substance, CMU will as well, Idema said.

Elliott said SAMRC started advocating for the change in policy in the 
fall of 2013.

He said that he's heard multiple times from multiple students that 
they would like to see more lenient punishments for possessing 
marijuana on campus.

"We know this is something that the student body wants, and it's just 
unfortunate that it hasn't happened so far," Elliott said. "It makes 
sense that the school would evaluate the procedure."

Right now, a student found in possession of marijuana on campus is 
referred to the police - the procedure followed during any on-campus violation.

 From there, the office of student conduct determines a punishment.

According to the office's website, a student with a first offense 
alcohol violation must pay a $200 fine and take an online alcohol 
education course. A second offense warrants a $300 fine, another 
online course and disciplinary probation until graduation.

A third offense results in possible suspension from the university, 
or a $300 fine.

A student with a first offense controlled substances violation must 
pay a $300 fine, take an online controlled substance education course 
and receives disciplinary probation until graduation.

That student would receive possible suspension or a $400 fine upon 
the second offense.

"For a college student, that's a big deal," Elliott said. "It would 
seem natural that they would match the penalties off of the actual 
health impact of each substance."

If anything, Idema said, he wouldn't be interested in lowering the 
fines for controlled substance violations to match alcohol violations.

He would be interested in raising alcohol violation fines, he said. 
During the 2011-2012 school year, the university had 122 controlled 
substance violations and 415 alcohol violations on record. The school 
upped the fines for the 2012-2013 school year, and violations dropped 
to 93 and 359, respectively.

At this point in the school year, Idema said, the university has 53 
controlled substance violations and 250 alcohol violations.

"We have a downward trend here," he said. "From the university's 
standpoint, I don't understand why we would want to change or lower 
the deterrent. It seems to be having a positive impact."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom