Nipping it in the bud; SIU does not plan to change policies regarding Marijuana use

By Juniper Oxford, Staff Reporter

Marijuana use will be legalized on Jan. 1, 2020 in Illinois; however, SIU doesn’t plan on changing its policy regarding the drug.

The use of recreational cannabis will still be restricted at SIU, Rae Goldsmith, the executive director of marketing and communications at SIU, said.

“The short answer is that students should not see any changes on campus related to cannabis,” Goldsmith said.

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Illinois is the 11th state to legalize marijuana, and the first to implement a comprehensive statewide marijuana marketplace designed by legislators. 

SIU is a smoke-free campus, in compliance with the Illinois Smoke Free Campus Act, which went into effect July 1, 2015.

“Recreational cannabis is prohibited in places where cigarette smoking is prohibited by the Smoke Free Illinois Law, which includes state universities,” Goldsmith said. “The new cannabis law also prohibits use on public property, which would include the university, as well as in vehicles.”

Charles Munson, a staff attorney from the Student’s Legal Assistance Department at SIU, said federal law will play a definitive role in how the university treats cannabis related issues. 

“Federal law still applies,” Munson said. “Federal law says that cannabis, weed, marijuana, is still illegal. It is still effective. It is still in place.” 

The Illinois law regarding cannabis put restrictions on the amount that a resident can possess. 

“Possession for Illinois residents is limited to 30 grams of raw cannabis, cannabis-infused products or products containing no more than 500 milligrams of THC or five grams of cannabis in concentrated form,” Munson said. 

Non-residents 21 and older may purchase half that amount of raw cannabis, cannabis infused products or products containing THC and cannabis in concentrated form.

Use of the drug is prohibited in public places, motor vehicles and on school grounds with the exception of medical users, or if you are near someone under the age of 21 or near an on-duty public servant such as a bus driver or corrections officer. 

“Illinois colleges and universities per the Illinois Cannabis Act are going to be allowed to ban it on their property,” Munson said. “Landlords may prohibit cannabis use on their property as well.” 

Because cannabis is illegal under federal law, colleges and universities in Illinois which allow use on their grounds could be subject to the federal government withdrawing funding and applying it elsewhere, Munson said. 

Expungements of the records of those who had possessed under 30 grams will be effective immediately when the law takes effect on the first of the year. The violations must be considered minor offenses and must not be connected to any violent crime or enhanced in any way. 

“Expungement is the removal of a citation or violation of the law from your criminal record,” Munson said. “In Illinois, the guardians of your criminal record are the Illinois state police.” 

Over the next few years, Illinois courts will be processing through prior convictions pertaining to cannabis. The immediate priority will be put on any conviction from 2013 to the legalization of cannabis in Illinois. 

Medicinal users can grow up to five plants in their residence. This does not change if there is more than one medicinal user under one household. The amount is tied to the residence itself and not the amount of residents within the household. 

As of right now, only medicinal users of cannabis will be allowed to grow their own plants.  Munson said this was one of the more highly debated points of the bill which was passed. 

Applications for dispensaries have already, as of October, been taken up by the state of Illinois. More applications will open at a later date after the law comes into effect. 

“On March 15, 2020, the state will begin processing applications for new licenses,” Munson said. “They are going to give themselves three months in order to process through those applications, but there is only going to be so many available at that time.” 

Employers will still be able to fire on the basis of employees using cannabis off the clock. This is because it is still illegal under federal law. 

“You can be prohibited by an employer,” Munson said. “The Controlled Substances Act still classifies and regulates illegal drugs, and the court held, in a unanimous opinion, that the term lawful activity is defined under state and federal law.” 

Recreational and medicinal users could potentially not be able to hold a Firearm Owner’s Identification card and use cannabis. 

“It is my understanding from some of the people that have medical marijuana cards that they give you a warning when you apply, when you go through that entire process, that your FOID card could be revoked,” Munson said.

Students under the age of 21 should be wary of the possibility of their financial aid being in jeopardy should they be brought up on charges related to cannabis use. 

“There is the ineligibility that can occur if you are found guilty of a drug-related offense,” Munson said. “One of the interesting things that you learn when you are a defense attorney is that one of the things that does not apply as a drug conviction is drug paraphernalia charge.” 

Munson said enforcement with motor vehicles could see some advanced techniques being used in order to effectively curb the use cannabis or intoxication behind the wheel. 

“The state has been looking at some of the things they have been doing in Colorado and California pretty closely,” Munson said. “One of the creepier suggestions that I have heard about is blood vans.” 

A “blood van” is another vehicle that, once a warrant has been obtained electronically, would be called to the scene to test the driver on-site through a blood testing for THC. The method will close the gap in time between a notification to the citizen about the possible offense, and the ensuing warrant needed to gather evidence. 

“Essentially, you have a police officer that pulls [the driver] over, that smells cannabis,” Munson said. “He can testify that over the phone to a judge, and that judge can electronically sign a warrant saying that they are going to take your blood and test it to see whether there is some THC in there.” 

Contributing writer Editor in Chief Emily Cooper can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @ECooper212.

Reporter Juniper Oxford can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter at @JuniperOxford.

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