Harvard Policies on Medical Marijuana To Remain Unchanged

Despite the legalization of medical marijuana in Massachusetts at the beginning of 2014, Harvard will not be altering its drug prohibition policies on campus to make an exception for medical marijuana.

“In light of the continued federal restrictions and the potential consequences to students who violate them, no proposal is being considered at this time to alter Harvard’s policy related to medical marijuana,” Director of Harvard University Health Services Paul J. Barreira wrote in an email.

In Nov. 2012, Barreira said that UHS will not make any changes to its policies until the details of the state law had been outlined and an internal review conducted.

Currently, the possession or use of any amount of marijuana is a crime under federal law. In his email, Barreira expressed concern that any Harvard students convicted of drug crimes can jeopardize their federal aid eligibility. At Harvard, more than $15 million in federal aid is given to students each year.

Economics lecturer Jeffrey A. Miron, a known advocate for the legalization of medical marijuana, said that because of the conflict between state and federal law, he can understand Harvard’s hesitation to allow medical marijuana on campus or to have UHS involved in distributing medical marijuana certifications.

According to Miron, any broad change in Harvard’s policies regarding marijuana can also jeopardize federal funding given to the University, and not just individual students.

“I think that UHS would be in a very awkward position, because the University still gets lots of federal funding. The University is still subject to all various kinds of federal regulations,” Miron said.

“It’s one thing if every other big university in Massachusetts was already doing this. You don’t want to be the first,” he added.

In fact, Barreira said that no college or university in Massachusetts has modified its drug policies as a result of the new state law legalizing medical marijuana. Many universities in states with legalized or medicalized marijuana, such as the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Colorado at Boulder, continue to prohibit use of all kinds of marijuana on campus.

Despite Harvard’s existing policies, Barreira said that, in light of the new law, he encourages all students, faculty, and staff who believe that marijuana might help address a serious medical condition to speak directly with their physician and explore an “alternative treatment plan.”

No medical marijuana dispensaries have opened yet in Massachusetts, although 20 dispensaries have been given provisional approval. After successfully completing the next phases of the approval process, dispensaries may begin operating as early as this summer. Currently, the only dispensary set to open in Cambridge will be operated by Greeneway Wellness Foundation, which has received a provisional license.

”The well-being of every member of the Harvard community continues to be a paramount consideration,” Barreira said.

—Staff writer Bryan L. Bu can be reached at bryan.bu@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer Quynh-Nhu Le can be reached at quynhnhule@thecrimson.com.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: March 11, 2014

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the position of Jeffrey A Miron within the Economics Department. In fact, he is a senior lecturer.

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