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Marijuana Legalization on the National Level

Photo courtesy of James Xue (SEAS ’17)

Marijuana, or as NSOP would discuss it, that thing we think some of you might do so here’s our number; don’t get caught. Despite the war on drugs that pledged to keep children clean from the harmful effects of weed, the drug has a lot of users ranging from celebrities to presidents. Therefore, a lot of people wonder why weed is still illegal. There’s no evidence that marijuana is any more dangerous than alcohol and tobacco, both legal products, and the push to illegalize the drug drove incarceration rates through the roof, especially for people of color. Throughout the country, states individually have started to legalize marijuana, first medically, but now for recreational use. Democrats on a national level want to push in this direction, stating that “because of conflicting federal and state laws concerning marijuana, we encourage the federal government to remove marijuana from the list of “Schedule 1″ federal controlled substances and to appropriately regulate it, providing a reasoned pathway for future legalization.” That if true is major, especially if a Clinton administration interprets the law in that way.

It still may mean you can’t smoke on campus.

As I already stated, some states have legalized marijuana for recreational use, which should theoretically make it legal to smoke on campus. However, the Obama administration didn’t change federal law, it simply declined to crack down on states that decided to legalize the drug. But colleges are mandated to engage in drug-prevention programming to receive federal funds. As long as marijuana is deemed a dangerous drug by the federal government, colleges cannot let you smoke regardless of a state referendum. Hillary may change this, but Wikileaks says she’s not thrilled with the idea, so if New York legalizes recreational marijuana, which it hasn’t, you would still have to walk past 110th Street. Oh, and the Republicans want to end this confusing patchwork of state legalization, and Donald Trump only supports medical marijuana. It’s hard to cover the status quo. For people waiting for weed to be legal to smoke, you’ll have a long wait under the Republicans. At the least with the Democrats you only need to wait until New York State allows you to. That’s not happening in New York State because we have no referendum mechanism and the state government on this issue doesn’t seem to want to move quickly. There’s one other hurdle to you smoking pot consequence-free, Columbia.

Unless the President or New York State mandated marijuana be legal on every campus, Columbia could become a smoke-free campus, not unlike a dry campus for alcohol. They may have many reasons to do this, from wanting to attract conservative parents to continuing the War on Fun, but the fact is they could. This goes into an important caveat for a lot of issues I’ve talked about before; just because the executive says something doesn’t mean your fight is over. Even with the threat of losing federal funds looming over like Damocles’ sword, No Red Tape would argue Title IX has yet to force Columbia to treat sexual assault seriously. If you actually want to use marijuana in your dorm without worrying about RAs writing you up, if and when the national government or New York State end their bans, you’ll probably need to press the issue, perhaps for the rest of your college experience. However, we don’t get to that step without legalization, and that will largely depend on who wins the upcoming Presidential election.

Ufon’s mini-series, Columbia and the 2016 Election, will run through the November 8th Presidential Elections.

The Lion is the only Columbia publication with an open-submissions policy. To respond to this piece or to submit one of your own, email submissions@columbialion.com

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