Repercussions vary in D.C. with marijuana decriminalization

Correction appended.

AU will continue to ban marijuana and made no changes to its drug policies in the 2014-2015 Student Conduct Code, despite D.C. decriminalizing the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana on July 13.

Marijuana is not legal under D.C. or federal law. However, under the Marijuana Possession Decriminalization Amendment Act of 2014 FINAL.PDF the Metropolitan Police Department cannot arrest individuals with one ounce or less of visible marijuana on private property but can issue a fine instead.

Possession of marijuana is a violation of federal law so AU saw no reason to modify its drug policies, because the University receives federal funding, Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students Robert Hradsky said.

“In reality, [marijuana] is still illegal in the District,” Hradsky said.

AU’s drug policy was last updated in March 2000, according to the alcohol and other drug policies section of Dean of Students Student Guide webpage.

The Marijuana Possession Decriminalization Amendment Act of 2014 does not shield anyone on AU’s campus from disciplinary and educational sanctions as a result of being found with any quantity of marijuana.

Student Conduct reviewed 79 drug cases during the 2013-2014 academic year, which includes the sale, manufacture, possession and distribution of any drug, Hrasky said by email.

The office was unable to isolate the number of marijuana incidents, but “the majority of cases a marijuana,” Hradsky said by email. Most cases are students smoking a “joint,” which is a small quantity of marijuana rolled up in paper like a cigarette, in a residence hall, Hradsky said.

The 2013-2014 academic year had the highest number of drug cases that Student Conduct has reviewed over the last four terms, including:

  • 53 drug cases in 2012-2013
  • 68 drug cases in 2011-2012
  • 64 drug cases in 2010-2011

AU Student Conduct handles a majority of its marijuana cases internally with a process called judicial review, according to Hradsky. Each marijuana incident is handled on a case by case basis.

“A vast majority [of cases] would be below one ounce,” Hradsky said.

First time offenders at AU will typically have a disciplinary conference with a member of the Student Conduct staff, Hradsky said. The student may receive disciplinary probation or have educational sanctions taken against them, according to Hradsky.

Student Conduct sees very few repeat offenders with marijuana, Hradsky said. Sanctions are more severe for students found in possession of marijuana a second time and the student may face removal from student housing, according to Hradsky.

The 2014-2015 Student Conduct Code is available on AU’s Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution webpage.

Marijuana in the District:
The repercussions for possessing marijuana in D.C. vary depending on one’s location.

The District of Columbia: If the Metropolitan Police Department finds an individual in the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana on private property, then that person must provide a valid name and address to a police officer and may be charged a $25 fine.

A person can be given a higher fine and be arrested by MPD if they refuse to give their name and address.

Individuals cannot have any marijuana in D.C. public spaces which include streets, sidewalks, alleys, parks, parking lots, vehicles or places where the public is invited.

Individuals can be arrested by MPD for selling any amount of marijuana, possessing more than one ounce of marijuana anywhere or consuming marijuana in public. That individual may be sentenced up to 60 days in jail or fined $500 after being convicted of these offenses, according to MPD’s webpage on marijuana.

However, the act does protects individuals who are under the influence of marijuana in public from arrest by MPD. The act does not protect individuals from federal law enforcement.

Federal Land and National Parks: Individuals can also be arrested if federal police or U.S. Park Police find them in the possession of any quantity of marijuana on federal property, including the National Mall, Rock Creek Park and National Service land, according to MPD’s marijuana webpage.

shogan@theeagleonline.com

A previous version said that AU will continue to ban marijuana despite D.C. criminalizing the possession of an ounce or less of marijuana. It has been corrected to decriminalizing.

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