After a long-fought battle, Vermont has officially legalized recreational marijuana and starting in July, allowing anyone over the age of 21 to cultivate two mature plants and possess up to one ounce of pot.
But before everyone starts sparking up around campus, the law here remains the same – and possessing marijuana or paraphernalia remains against school policy.
Keith Molinari, director of public safety, said although the state law has changed to allow the use and cultivation of marijuana, Castleton must abide by federal law in order to receive federal funding.
“We fall under federal law and their guidelines,” Molinari said. “We’re talking about a substantial amount of money that we get subsidized from the feds and that comes through in financial aid for our students.”
On Jan. 19 Chancellor of the Vermont State Colleges System Jeb Spaulding sent an email to the VSC that stated:
“…The new law will not change the Vermont State Colleges’ policies prohibiting the possession, use, and cultivation of marijuana on our campuses…despite the change in Vermont’s state law, federal law continues to prohibit marijuana use, possession, and cultivation at educational institutions and on the premises of all recipients of federal funds…”
Molinari said if a student were to be caught in possession of marijuana on campus it would be considered a policy violation instead of a criminal offense.
“We’re doing policy violations instead of getting the cops involved. Unless we’re asked, it would be considered a policy violation,” he said.
According to Molinari, Castleton is required by the ADA to make accommodations for students who use medical marijuana to treat specific medical needs.
“So they give you a card and you can possess marijuana. Our accomodation for those people is they can’t live on campus,” Molinari said. “You can be a freshman and have an apartment off campus, but that’s where the marijuana will have to be stored.”
Students who want to embrace the legalization of marijuana may find their sanctuary off campus next semester when the law is officially in effect.
John Rehlen, owner of Castleton Rentals said legalization will not affect lease agreements or who he rents his properties out to in any way.
“It’s going to be legal and therefore marijuana smoking has been going on forever, so that’s really not gonna change. I don’t see there being more or less marijuana consumed,” Rehlen said.
He acknowledge that cultivation will also be legal and while he didn’t say it, he hinted that it would not be a problem as long as the tenant is abiding by the specifications.
“Clearly inside the apartment is the tenant’s turf, so to speak. Outside it’s a little bit different,” Rehlen said. “It’s frankly a question I hadn’t thought about.”
Students don’t seem to be having a problem with the new law at all.
Riley Cartwright said it was only a matter of time before Vermont legalized the recreational use of marijuana because possession has already been decriminalized here for so long.
“For those who do smoke, it doesn’t really change much. You can grow plants now and you can have an ounce on you at a time. I like it though, personally,” Cartwright said.
Nicholas White supports legalization as well and thinks marijuana is a non harmful drug that should have been legalized a long time ago.
“They shouldn’t have any problems with it. Why it’s still illegal is because it’s a really old law and nobody likes getting rid of old laws,” White said.
One student athlete, who wished to remain anonymous, believes legalization could be good for Vermont’s economy in the near future.
“I think it’s nice. I think it’s going to be a nice money opportunity for people.”
Sabrena Cusson is also thinking about the financial benefits that could come from legalization, especially in the education aspect of it.
“I think it will bring in a lot of tax money that can be distributed to a lot of different lacking areas,” Cusson said. “I know in Colorado they gave it toward education and they’ve been able to start a lot of programs for that so I think it would be good.”
Unfortunately, selling marijuana recreationally is still illegal in Vermont and will not be collecting any tax revenue at this time.
Chris Rice thinks the potential to one day make money off legalization in Vermont is always good, but being able to use it for medical purposes is important too.
“I think it’s a good idea because there is a lot of positive uses for marijuana. I know personally one of my uncles uses it for medical purposes. It’s very helpful, he has cancer, so I think it’s something good that will come and I think that a lot of other states are doing it,” Rice said.
Although medical marijuana is already legal in Vermont, people who have a chronic illness that don’t qualify for a medical card can seek medical help outside of traditional routes.
Sara Stearns is for legalization and agrees with Rice that the medical benefits of legalization will be crucial for people struggling to find medications that work for their specific needs.
“I am totally for the legalization of marijuana. It has a lot of medical uses not only for epilepsy or cancer patients, but also people who have depression and anxiety. I know marijuana can be helpful for those individuals as well,” she said.