The tour of Mynt was a part of the Reno Gazette-Journal’s Know Your City series.
Can UNR students and faculty legally use pot now that recreational marijuana has been legalized in Nevada?
• Short answer: Yes for students 21 or older, in the privacy of private property, but not on university property, at university events or even events where there are people representing the university. That means no dorms; no sporting events, including away games; and no educational conferences. So far this year, 26 students have been received “educational programming” as a result of using marijuana or marijuana paraphernalia. That’s not out of line with pre-legalization years. By federal law, faculty are prohibited from marijuana use.
After a University of Nevada, Reno student was photographed at a racist rally in Virginia, many looked up the student code of conduct to see if he could be expelled. One of those was Andrew Diss of Reno. A section that prohibits marijuana use and possession caught his eye.
“Is this enforceable given that we now have legalized recreational and medicinal marijuana in Nevada?” he wrote. “It seems like this policy directly contradicts the will of the voters. The university would be on shaky ground if they tried to expel a student for violating this section if they follow Nevada law and only possess an ounce that is consumed in private. Or are they concerned that allowing marijuana on campus jeopardizes federal funding?”
Responding to these and more questions by email were Gary Cardinal, assistant general counsel, and Kimberly Thomas, J.D., assistant dean of students for student conduct at UNR. Replies have been edited for continuity and brevity.
RGJ: Is UNR’s student code of conduct prohibiting marijuana use enforceable now that it’s legal in the state?
UNR: Yes. The Student Code of Conduct applies on campus and university property such as residence halls. It also applies to university-sponsored events or at events sponsored by others at which employees or students are attending as representatives of the university.
RGJ: Does the policy contradict the will of Nevada voters?
UNR: The policy is in compliance with several federal statutes.
RGJ: Are students prohibited from using marijuana even off-campus?
UNR: The marijuana policy does not apply to conduct undertaken in one’s private capacity on their own time. However, despite Nevada’s legalization, use remains illegal under the Federal Controlled Substances Act.
RGJ: Is it prohibited even if a student is 21 or older?
UNR: Yes, under the circumstances described in response to question #1, because it remains a federal crime.
RGJ: If a student used marijuana in compliance with Nevada law, how could the school justify expelling the student?
• Ask the RGJ: Is it illegal for pot users to possess a gun in Nevada? Yes
UNR: The conduct office opens investigations in matters that are reported to the office and might violate the student code of conduct. If the student lives on campus, use in the privacy of a dormitory room is still a violation of a university policy even though the student may not be in violation of a criminal statute. In that case, there would be follow-up potentially through the conduct office to discuss compliance with university policies and violations of the same. Expulsions are very rare on our campus, and disciplinary decisions/consequences are determined on a case by case basis.
RGJ: What is the punishment for marijuana use?
UNR: The conduct office has progressive sanctioning for violations of the Student Code of Conduct associated with alcohol or other drug use. Sanctions, if deemed appropriate, can include educational programming in the conduct office and referrals to other campus partners to provide resources to aid in student success.
RGJ: How many students have been disciplined for marijuana?
UNR: 2013-2014: 66
RGJ: Can UNR conduct research involving marijuana?
UNR: There is a process for obtaining federal approval for marijuana research on human subjects, which involves approval by multiple federal agencies. The Board of Regents handbook says, “Any [Nevada System of Higher Education] institution may engage in marijuana research that is conducted in accordance with state and federal laws and regulations, provided that the following are obtained: (a) the prior written consent of the President of the institution, after consultation with the institution’s general counsel; and (b) legal authorization from the proper federal authorities for approved research purposes.”
RGJ: If UNR allowed marijuana use on university property and at university events, could it put federal funds in jeopardy?
UNR: That is one concern. We had $185 million in federal funding in fiscal year 2016.
RGJ: Are faculty allowed to use and possess marijuana, in accordance with Nevada law?
UNR: Not on campus, at university events or at events sponsored by third parties at which the faculty are attending as representatives of the university. Moreover, the federal Drug-Free Workplace Act prohibits use of marijuana by employees. [U.S. code] requires entities receiving federal government contracts to provide a drug-free workplace as a condition of receiving such contracts. [The same condition applies to] entities who receive federal grants. [U.S. code] also requires institutions of higher education to adopt and implement a program to prevent use of illegal drugs and abuse of alcohol by employees and students in order to be eligible for federal financial assistance.
RGJ: What about for those using medical marijuana?
UNR: Use of medical marijuana for illness or disability remains illegal, also. Because the use of marijuana remains a [federal] crime, those using medical marijuana in response to a disability fall outside the definition of “qualified individual with a disability” under both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the federal Rehabilitation Act.
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