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Given all the new changes within the state and the country regarding legal and medical marijuana, what is our school's obligation to individuals who bring marijuana on to campus but have a medical marijuana card?

Excellent question because there is a lot of confusion over the actual purposes of Oregon's medical marijuana law. In order to look at the impact of these laws on the school environment, it is important to first understand what Oregon's medical marijuana law actually does. The Oregon Medical Marijuana Act (OMMA) authorizes persons holding a registry identification card to use marijuana for medical purposes. It does this by exempting those persons from state criminal liability for manufacturing, delivering, and possessing marijuana, provided that certain conditions are met like having a medical marijuana card. This is the bulk of the law, essentially limiting the criminal prosecution for marijuana related crimes for individuals that have a medical marijuana card. It should be noted as well that Federal Law still prohibits the manufacture, distribution, dispensation, and possession of marijuana even when state law authorizes its use to treat medical conditions.

As a practical matter, what this means for schools is that the possession of medical marijuana cards by a student or employee does not change anything for you. It is still an individual in possession of an illegal substance on school grounds contrary to District policy and nothing prevents the District from enforcing these policies. In fact, the Oregon Supreme Court went so far as to say that nothing in the OMMA alters the fact that marijuana is an illegal drug, and for employment purposes an employer is not obligated to engage in an interactive process with a disabled employee who is using marijuana. See Emerald Steel Fabricators, Inc., v. Bureau of Labor and Industries, 348 Or 159 (2010).

In sum, while the OMMA initially appears to allow for the use of medical marijuana in many settings, in reality it simply alters the criminal consequences for marijuana possession and does not require a change in how schools should approach marijuana on campus for students or staff.

For more information on this question, Ask Betsy's Team.