Legal pot starts Jan. 1 in California. But can you take it to class?

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Marijuana countdown

Anybody 21 or older can legally buy recreational marijuana in California starting Monday. But they still can’t take it to school.

Officials from the Sacramento-area campuses of Los Rios Community College District, the University of California and California State University say school policies barring marijuana on campus and at school-sponsored events have not changed since California voters passed Proposition 64, which legalized recreational cannabis.

The colleges all have similar drug policies saying possession or use of illegal drugs, including marijuana, on campus could result in disciplinary action ranging from treatment programs to dismissal.

“While marijuana is regulated differently in California, the federal government still considers it illegal,” said Anita Fitzhugh, a spokeswoman for California State University, Sacramento. “As a state entity receiving federal funding, Sacramento State is obligated to follow federal laws regarding drugs.”

Claire Doan, director of media relations for the UC president’s office, said because universities in the UC system receive federal funding, both the Drug-Free Schools and Communities and Drug-Free Workplace acts prevent it from relaxing its stance on marijuana.

“Marijuana use, possession and distribution is still illegal federally, despite the passage of Proposition 64 – so any non-compliance with applicable federal laws could jeopardize funding,” Doan said.

She added that the UC system is always assessing its policies for compliance and effectiveness and will be closely monitoring the impact of legalized cannabis in California.

Students offered mixed reactions when asked how they felt about their schools’ pot policies.

UC Davis engineering major Kyle Goff said the school’s marijuana ban fits with its status as a smoke-free campus. “I mean, they don’t allow cigarettes, but those have always been legal,” Goff said.

But Sacramento State criminal justice major Nicholas Ramos said he has friends who eat edibles to deal with chronic pain and insomnia. He understands the federal liability risk for the university if it did allow marijuana on campus, but said he also thinks some CSU system drug policies can be unfair.

You can use marijuana off campus, but if you come back to campus and forget you have some in your backpack, “you’re screwed,” said Ramos. He also noted that any drug convictions could result in the loss of federal loans and possibly having to pay that money back.

“Under some circumstances, a student could lose federal financial aid if they violate federal drug policies,” Los Rios Associate spokesman Gabe Ross confirmed. “Students are required to disclose any federal drug offenses on their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application.”

UC Davis police officers do not arrest students or university employees if they are caught violating UC drug policies, said interim-Capt. Jennifer Garcia. Instead, staff infractions are handled administratively and students are reported to the university or student judicial affairs.

Students can be arrested for selling marijuana, however, because it is still illegal, Garcia said.

People not affiliated with the university, such as those attending events, who use marijuana on campus would be asked to leave and could be charged with trespassing if they refused. But Garcia said the person would have to be causing a disturbance and it would not be something campus police would do if someone just had one joint.

“It’s going to be interesting for law enforcement for sure, especially for college campuses,” Garcia said.

Cassie Dickman: 916-321-1814

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