HARTFORD, Conn. — Colleges are becoming a battleground in the conflict among federal and state marijuana laws as students who use healthcare pot challenge decades-old campus drug policies.
In states exactly where healthcare marijuana is legal, students disciplined for making use of it are taking their schools to court. College officials argue they could shed federal funding for failing to stick to federal law that labels cannabis an illegal drug with no accepted healthcare use.
Sheida Assar mentioned she was expelled from GateWay Neighborhood College in Phoenix final month for violating the school’s drug policy following she tested good for marijuana, which she utilizes to treat chronic discomfort from polycystic ovary syndrome.
She was studying diagnostic healthcare sonography, Assar mentioned, and an instructor had told her she wouldn’t have any difficulties if she presented her Arizona healthcare marijuana card. She commonly utilizes marijuana to aid her sleep and had never ever been beneath the influence in class, she mentioned.
“They yanked me out of class in the middle of the college day,” mentioned Assar, 31, of Chandler, Arizona. “They escorted me to the administration like I was a … criminal. It is discrimination, and it also violates my rights beneath the Arizona healthcare marijuana law.”
The legal challenges are coming from students studying nursing and other healthcare specialties who, beneath college policies, ought to undergo drug testing.
Assar and other students say they received approval to use healthcare marijuana from college workers who serve students with wellness-associated demands — only to face discipline from greater-ranking college officials.
Assar mentioned she intends to sue GateWay to recoup the $two,000 she spent on tuition and other educational costs and seek far more funds in damages. Her lawyer currently has been in speak to with the college, she mentioned.
A GateWay spokeswoman, Christine Lambrakis, mentioned that she could not confirm Assar’s status at the college and that the college continues to prohibit marijuana use.
Asked about an Arizona Supreme Court ruling final year that overturned a 2012 state law that produced possession or use of marijuana on college campuses a crime, Lambrakis mentioned the college is in the procedure of reviewing its policies and will not modify them in the meantime.
Thirty-3 states and Washington, D.C., let healthcare marijuana, and 11 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized recreational marijuana, developing clashes with federal law that have been playing out in courts, largely in employment circumstances that have had mixed final results for healthcare pot.
There do not seem to be efforts by recreational marijuana customers to challenge college drug policies, observers say. That is probably for the reason that states limit recreational use to persons 21 and older, excluding most college students, and for the reason that there haven’t been profitable legal challenges to campus alcohol policies even even though state laws let persons 21 and more than to drink, they say.
States with healthcare marijuana laws let use by persons 18 years or older with a doctor’s recommendation, as nicely as by minors if their parents approve.
Connecticut nursing student Kathryn Magner sued Sacred Heart University final month following she tested good for marijuana and was barred from attending necessary clinical healthcare rounds, according to her lawsuit. She had begun making use of marijuana legally in her residence state of Massachusetts more than the summer time to treat circumstances that have been not disclosed in legal documents.
Connecticut law permits healthcare marijuana and forbids public and private colleges from discriminating against students who use it. A judge cited the state’s law in ordering that Magner, 22, from Marlborough, Massachusetts, be permitted to return to the healthcare rounds. The lawsuit was settled beneath undisclosed terms.
Just before the settlement, she stopped making use of marijuana, passed a drug screening and obtained approval to use healthcare pot from the Fairfield school’s Workplace of Student Accessibility to attempt to salvage her nursing profession, her lawsuit mentioned. But nursing college officials wouldn’t budge, her lawsuit mentioned.
“Many schools disability solutions offices are not universally listened to by the university,” mentioned Michael Thad Allen, an lawyer for Magner. “It just shows that these types of concerns will grow to be far more typical if employers and schools do not abide by the law.”
Sacred Heart demands students to “obey the law at all occasions,” but it treats healthcare marijuana like other disability-associated requests and “seeks to deliver affordable accommodation beneath the law,” college officials mentioned in a statement.
In Florida, Kaitlin McKeon, of Naples, is suing Nova Southeastern University for expelling her from its nursing system in Fort Myers final year following she tested good for marijuana. She has a state healthcare marijuana card to take the drug for quite a few circumstances.
McKeon also mentioned college officials told her there would be no challenge with her use of healthcare marijuana beneath the provisions of state law.
But following she failed the drug test in January 2018, greater-ranking officials moved to expel her, saying she violated the school’s drug policy, her lawsuit says.
“It’s genuinely sad that Nova Southeastern … took this stance on this challenge and is genuinely stopping a genuinely excellent, caring individual from getting into the nursing field and living out her dream for the reason that she chose a medication that is legal in Florida but not a single that they recognize,” mentioned her lawyer, Michael Minardi.
Nova Southeastern officials mentioned they can not comment on pending litigation.
The lawsuits have the possible to set legal precedents on the use of healthcare marijuana at colleges.
In the meantime, advocates say, universities can lighten penalties so students do not face expulsion or suspension for legally making use of healthcare marijuana.
“Universities can properly decriminalize it, de-punish it and make it not one thing they concentrate on,” mentioned Jared Moffat, campaigns coordinator for the Marijuana Policy Project, an advocacy group for pro-marijuana laws.