Can I smoke that here? Issues 2 and 3 raise questions about marijuana on campus


Issues 2 and 3

Ian Flickinger

A Kent State poll found that 56 percent of voters would vote “yes” on Issue 3, which would legalize the use of recreational and medicinal marijuana in Ohio.

However, even if it is legalized, students still would not be allowed to smoke on university property.

“Issue 3 is a state issue,” said Kent State President Beverly Warren. “So, even if it passes, we have a federal prohibition for marijuana use, and because we receive federal funds and are governed by federal regulations, we would have to say, as a campus, we cannot condone the use of marijuana.”

The poll, released last Tuesday and commissioned by Cleveland-based WKYC, notes that 54 percent also planned to support Issue 2, which in essence, prohibits Issue 3 from being enacted.

“(Issue 2) is an anti-monopoly amendment that protects the initiative process from being used for personal economic benefit,” said Matt McClellan, press secretary for Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted. “So it will, if it’s passed, it will prevent monopolies from being put into the constitution for the personal economic benefit of a group or individual.”

McClellan said that Issue 3 would establish a monopoly for the commercial production and sale of marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes. He also said that if Issue 2 is passed, it would directly become enacted because it is a state-initiated bill. Issue 3 would have a 30-day waiting period because it was created by citizens.

If both Issue 2 and Issue 3 pass, McClellan said the issue will most likely be decided by the courts.

For students (and faculty) who believe the potential legalization of marijuana in Ohio enables them to smoke on campus with the same smoking zones currently designated for tobacco use, this might come as a surprise.

Warren said if the bill is passed, the university will communicate the message to students that pot smoking – legal or not — will still be considered unlawful on university property.

“What I think most institutions are doing in Colorado and places where this is already having an effect on universities is making sure that students are aware,” Warren said, “so that they are not caught in a compromising circumstance where they just didn’t know that it was not appropriate to have marijuana on a university campus that really does have federal funding.”

However, Officer Tricia Knoles, community resource officer for the Kent State Police Department, said she has not heard anything forbidding marijuana from federal or state property.

“The university may have areas designated, but the university is allowed to set up their policies. If they have policies that you can only smoke in a certain area, or whatever, just like you can’t smoke in a dorm. That’s a policy, not a law, but we can enforce the policy,” Knoles said. “As far as I know, if it does become legalized, I haven’t heard anything specifically about it not being allowed on state or federal property.”

Knoles said if the law allowing recreational use should pass — understanding that the university has the right to create its own policies regarding use —  then marijuana would be subject to a policy similar to the current tobacco-use policy, which prohibits smoking within 20 feet of openings to university buildings.

“Obviously, you can’t smoke in the dorm. It would have to be a certain amount of feet away from any building,” Knoles said. “And the university would have to come up with other policies I’m sure, because unlike cigarette smoke, marijuana smoke, you can get a contact buzz. So students who choose not to smoke, it’s not fair to them, they don’t want a buzz.”

Jill Church, director of Residence Services, said the potential legalization of marijuana would not have any effect for the department because smoking any substance is prohibited in residence halls.

“We would not change that (our policy). It will continue to stand: the halls are smoke-free,” she said. “ I can’t speak to the rest of campus, but I can tell you the residence halls would remain smoke-free.”

Church said if the issue passes, she does not think students will begin smoking marijuana in the dorms because of the current policy prohibiting smoking in the residence halls.

“I think we would probably wait to see if there was confusion or an assumption that students think they will be able to smoke in the halls if this is passed,” Church said. “If I’m getting the sense this is a common assumption, then we’d send out something that clarifies that nothing has changed and the halls are smoke-free.”

Warren said she understands the need to communicate a clear message to students if legislation is passed but also recognizes the need to review current strategies to ensure an inclusive environment is available to all students.

“I think that increased awareness, increased communication [will be necessary],” she said. “We’ll see if it passes; if it does pass, I think we’re going to have to really look at some of our policies. We’re going to have to be thoughtful about medicinal use of marijuana and what we do about that, but we’ll also need to be thoughtful about a communication plan (that shows) that it would still be illegal to use marijuana on campus.”

Ian Flickinger is an administration reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].


The Kent State Political Science Club will host Ian James, executive director of ResponsibleOhio, at its meeting Monday. ResponsibleOhio is the central organization behind the proposed bill legalizing marijuana.