BY Kaitlyn Alderson
Because Central is a federally funded school, administrators say it would lose all of its funding and financial aid if it did not follow federal law regarding marijuana.
And unlike Washington state, where voters legalized the recreational use of marijuana, federal law still classifies it as a Schedule 1 drug along with heroin and LSD.
Richard DeShields, associate dean of student living and the chief conduct officer in the office of the Dean of Student Success, explained that his office will take the same disciplinary actions they always have when students are caught using marijuana illegally, despite the legalization state-wide.
On campus, that means nobody – even students over 21 years old – can use marijuana. With the passage of I-502, off-campus offenses will include if the user is under 21, is driving under the influence or is caught using marijuana outside.
When a Central student is caught with marijuana or marijuana paraphernalia by a police officer, that police officer contacts Central’s police department, DeShields said.
Ten days after the student is cited by the police, the school both emails and sends a letter to the student to ensure they receive it. The letter informs the student when and where they need to meet with a conduct officer. If a student refuses to come to the meeting, they will be expelled, DeShields said.
“If it is more likely than not it occurred, we will proceed,” DeShields said.
DeShields said that all cases are different, but that in most cases there is no effect on financial aid.
“On the first violation the parents are not normally notified but on the second they are,” DeShields said. “If a student is caught selling any drugs, the parents are notified immediately.”
A senior who was cited for possession of paraphernalia by the police when she was a sophomore said she had to meet with a conduct officer a week later. In the meeting, she said she and the conduct officer discussed the penalties.
“The school is judge, jury and executioner,” the student, who wished to remain anonymous, said. At the meeting, she said, she was not given the chance to explain her side of the story or to prove her innocence.
“What the school made me do was far more intense than what I had to do with the courts,” the student said.
Her punishment with the court system, she said, was 24 hours of community service and six months of probation. Through the school, she said she had to take Marijuana 101 and had a year-and-a-half of probation. Within that 18 months, if she were to have been caught again, she would have been expelled. She was able to keep her financial aid.
The Wildcat Wellness Center has a two-hour Marijuana 101 class that students are required to take when they get in trouble with campus police regarding marijuana. Marijuana 101 includes finding out from the student how often they use marijuana and when.
The results are then given to Doug Fulp, a health educator at the center, who said he discusses with the student how their choices will impact them. In the follow-up meeting, Fulp said he informs the students about the health risks that come along with using marijuana.
“Our goal here at the WWC is to help inform students on the decisions they are making,” Fulp said.
Fulp said the Wildcat Wellness Center has been tracking national studies which show that when people’s perception of risk goes down, the rate of usage goes up, shortly afterwards. One recent national study showed that there was a five percent decrease in the perception of risk regarding the use of marijuana.
“We are anticipating an increase in marijuana users,” Fulp said.
He said the center is sending out its own survey this month, and the results will be released this summer. The survey will cover marijuana, alcohol, nicotine usage and more, he said.
All first-year students are required to go through drug and alcohol training. Students also have the ability to report others through the MyCWU portal, by using the link “Report Behaviors of Concern.” These reports go to the office of the Dean of Student Success.
“The education of the students is the most important so we can help them get jobs after they graduate,” DeShields said. “The university does not make social judgments on students and treats alcohol and drug mishaps that same way.”