Although the City of Philadelphia recently passed an ordinance to decriminalize low-level marijuana possession, officials with the University of Pennsylvania say their campus will remain a drug-free facility. Unfortunately, this means the new city law allowing individuals to possess up to an ounce of marijuana without fear of prosecution will not prevent Penn students from losing their scholarships or being expelled if they are caught on university property with weed.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter announced several weeks ago his intent to sign a measure to decriminalize marijuana, a move that would strip away the criminal penalties previously associated with this offense by replacing them with fines — $25 for possession of less than an ounce and $100 for public consumption.
Yet, Penn interim director of the Office of Student Conduct, Julie Nettleton, recently told The Daily Pennsylvanian that despite the reform to Philadelphia drug laws, nothing will change in the eyes of the university. “When it comes to the University prohibiting marijuana use and having students held accountable for it on campus, we actually have to abide by federal laws, which say that we can’t allow it,” she said.
The risk of losing federal funding for research and financial assistance, said Nettleton, is the biggest reason the university cannot allow marijuana on campus. “In terms of University policy, our policy continues to be that it’s illegal and prohibited on campus,” she continued. “If you are found in possession of or using [marijuana], we can hold you accountable” through Penn’s disciplinary process.”
“Students might perceive it to be less risky, or less harmful, or less looked down upon [to use marijuana], and therefore feel free to use more openly. My biggest message to them is that the University’s stance doesn’t change,” she said.
Philadelphia’s move to decriminalize marijuana will not give students a “free pass” to bring cannabis on campus, said criminal defense lawyer, Michael Fienman. “It’s important for UPenn students to know, just because the city decriminalizes small amount of marijuana, it’s doesn’t mean that the school thinks it’s okay,” he said. “Penn Police are sworn officers and they are able to cite and arrest students for violations.”
Unfortunately, what is true for the University of Pennsylvania, in terms of being forced to kiss ass with Uncle Sam in order to maintain funding, goes for universities in legal and semi-legal states all across America. As long as there remains a threat of a university losing federal resources, students can expect to see anti-pot policies in play.