Medical marijuana makes its way to Portage County, but not yet to Kent campus

Laina Yost

 A medical marijuana dispensary is expected to come to Ravenna in September, but Kent State will continue its smoke-free campus campaign against all smoking, including that of medical marijuana.  

A number of Kent State students need marijuana to medicate, but they may not be able to use it on campus for some time. Vice President of Students Affairs Shay Little said she advises students to continue to follow the current smoking and tobacco ban in place while Kent State monitors the implementation of Ohio’s new law.

“With any policy or procedure, we’re always balancing the institutional mission and vision and the priorities of our campus environment,” Little said.

The bill passed the Ohio Senate in May 2016 and took effect in September of the same year. It is being implemented by the Ohio Department of Commerce, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy and the Ohio Medical Board.

Those who need medical marijuana are charged an annual registration fee of $50.

Emily Grubb, a social geography major, legally uses cannabis to medicate and currently has to take the six- to seven-hour trip to Michigan for medication.

Grubb, who lives and medicates off campus, said it would be hard to tell if students chose to use medical marijuana on campus due to low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s mind-altering effects, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

It is still unclear if out-of-state students will be allowed to receive medical marijuana from dispensaries in Ohio. Grant Thomas, the education and outreach coordinator at the Ohio Board of Pharmacy, said it is required for Ohio to act in good faith with other states and reach out to them. It is not required that states set reciprocity rules.

As of now, those reciprocities haven’t started because there are no current dispensaries in the state.

Grubb said the largest potential problem with students medicating on campus is the stigma behind the use of drugs.

“The greatest issue I have run into, however, has been fear,” Grubb said. “I, like everyone else, grew up with anti-drug programs in schools that compared marijuana to heroin and cocaine, so to take it as medicine when I was told my entire life that it would ruin my life — that can be a bit weird.”

Adonis Zaraa, a senior medical technology major and patient advocate at Compassionate Cleveland, said advocates are working with university officials and law enforcement to help educate communities about medical marijuana.

“Medical marijuana patients are highly motivated to improve their functioning despite their medical conditions,” Zaraa said. “Because of their severe medical issues, KSU should try their best to accommodate students and their treatments — including qualifying students with statements of Affirmative Defense right now.”

Randy Davis, the president of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, said the stigma around medical marijuana is mainly due to the lack of education surrounding the issue.

Davis said the organization’s goal is to teach students how to understand and use drugs like medical marijuana in a responsible manner. He encouraged all students to follow the university’s current procedures and be respectful of its rules.

Once registration begins in September of this year, medical marijuana users can get a statement of Affirmative Defense from physicians, allowing them to legally medicate with marijuana.

According to the Ohio law that passed, users can only medicate using oils, tinctures, plant material, edibles and patches. Ohio’s law also created a particular set of conditions in which students will be authorized to use medical marijuana. Some of those include Crohn’s Disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, HIV and chronic pain.

Zaraa said students often believe using medical marijuana could affect college performance.

“Medical marijuana patients attending college are law-abiding and valuable members of our community, who will earn their degrees and go on to become successful teachers, scientists, business-owners, leaders and so on,” Zaraa said.

Laina Yost is an enterprise reporter. Contact her at [email protected].