The Collegian
Sunday, December 10, 2023

As marijuana laws rapidly change in Virginia, campus policy remains fixed

<p>21+ sign at a storefront in Richmond.&nbsp;</p>

21+ sign at a storefront in Richmond. 

On April 11, Governor Glenn Youngkin proposed a new amendment to a current recreational marijuana bill that would establish a misdemeanor penalty for possession of more than two ounces, marking yet another change in Virginia's shifting marijuana laws. 

Recreational marijuana first became legalized in July 2021 under a bill signed by former Gov. Ralph Northam that permitted small amounts of possession and cultivation. 

On Feb. 15, 2022, the Virginia Senate passed another bill legalizing marijuana sales beginning Sept. 2022, however, this waits for approval by the House of Delegates. If denied, sales will likely begin in January 2024 — the original start date for retail sales when marijuana was first legalized in the Commonwealth. 

Youngkin's new amendment, if approved, would set the minimum age at 21 for the purchase of CBD products. It would also ban Delta-8 products, a synthetic substance currently sold at smoke shops and dispensaries that has similar effects as marijuana. 

Regardless of the changes made on a state level, current campus policy prohibiting marijuana usage will remain, wrote Patrick Benner, director of the Office of Residence Life and Housing, in an email to The Collegian.

"Marijuana remains an illegal substance federally and is not permitted on college campuses," Benner wrote. "There are no expected changes to our ATOD policy.” 

The University of Richmond prohibits the use, cultivation, possession and sale of marijuana on campus in compliance with the Drug-Free Schools and Campuses Act as well as UR's Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Policy

Compliance with the Drug-Free Schools and Campuses Act is necessary for UR to receive federal financial aid, according to the ATOD policy. The rules governing this act are not expected to change before recreational marijuana becomes federally legalized, according to the Washington Post.

UR Chief of Police Dave McCoy said that he doesn’t foresee a change to campus policy in the near future.

“Moving from decriminalization to legalization at a state level, it’s still not gonna impact the federal law, '' McCoy said. “I see a point down the road where this decision between the state and federal is gonna be determined at the Supreme Court.” 

Until then, campus policy remains stagnant, frustrating some students. 

First-year Olivia Day thinks state legislation should be enough to permit marijuana use on campus, she said.

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“The great thing about America is that states get to make their own laws, so I don’t see why we need to wait for the federal government to do it,” she said. “I think if the state has decided weed is not an issue. it should be allowed on campus.” 

Chief McCoy noted the health and safety concerns that come with marijuana usage, specifically its effects on others in the campus community. 

“It’s when your actions put somebody else in harm's way — and harm can be as insignificant as ‘look don’t blow smoke in my face, I’m your roommate’ to driving your vehicle and killing somebody — that’s when it becomes an issue for us,” he said. 

First-year Abby Spiller agreed that health and safety concerns are important, but felt that enforcing marijuana rules on campus — similar to the way UR currently handles alcohol — would be more impactful than banning the substance altogether, she said. 

Currently, anyone over the age of 21 in Virginia can possess up to one ounce of marijuana and cultivate four plants per household. Persons under 21 in possession of one ounce to one pound of marijuana face a $25 fine. It is illegal to consume marijuana in a public setting regardless of age. 

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