UPD Chief talks legal marijuana

Corryn Brock and Hannah Shillo

While recreational marijuana use is legal in the state of Illinois as of Jan. 1, there are still limitations on the new law that could affect students.

University Police Department Chief Kent Martin discussed what students should be aware of before rolling up.

Martin said while it is legal to use marijuana recreationally now, students need to be aware of the rules that come with the law.

“The common theme going around is cannabis is legal now, but that’s kind of misleading because there are a lot of restrictions that are put on this,” Martin said.

Marijuana is prohibited on campus

Students are neither allowed to smoke nor possess any cannabis product while on campus.

While the issues are not likely to be dealt with in a court of law, Martin said issues of marijuana use will continue to be dealt with via the Office of Student Accountability and Support.

Martin said marijuana found on campus will be immediately confiscated.

“If we’re contacted by (the Office of Student Accountability and Support) or we just come across it ourselves, any cannabis product will be seized and considered contraband and will be either destroyed or held as evidence if it rises to something that would be prosecuted,” Martin said.

Martin said the use of marijuana on campus is against federal law.

“Technically that is a violation of federal law for them to have or possess (marijuana/cannabis products) on any university property because we fall under (the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act of 1989),” Martin said. “Nothing really is going to change as far as how we deal with that as far as how Student Accountability and Support deals with that.”

Off-campus use of marijuana also has its restraints

Individuals using marijuana or cannabis products must be at least 21 years of age and not use marijuana or cannabis products around those under the legal age.

Public use of marijuana or cannabis products remains illegal. This would include use of such products outside a person’s property but not inside of said property; all use should be out of view from the public.

When transporting cannabis products in a vehicle, the product must be in an odorless, child-proof container.

“So it’s not just now you can have cannabis and walk around with it wherever you want to go and smoke it on your way to class or something like that,” Martin said. “Again, out in public you can’t just walk down the street smoking a joint … I think there’s a lot of misconception that people think, ‘I can just do it wherever and whenever because it’s legal now.’”

Driving under the influence of marijuana or cannabis products is still illegal.

“You’re not going to be allowed to do things when you are under the influence of cannabis, so you can’t smoke a joint and then hop in your car and drive over to your buddy’s house or if you live on campus, you can’t drive to an off-campus house or an off-campus apartment and smoke a joint with your buddies and then get in your car and drive back because you’re over the amount that you can have in your system,” Martin said.

“So there’s going to be some things like that that I think potentially could trip people up who are trying to comply or trying to follow the law but they inadvertently do something that’s against the rules so that’s why I think people need to try to educate themselves as much as they can on what they’re allowed to do and not do.”

There are currently no devices that can detect how much THC is in a person’s system, but Martin said there is another way to determine if someone has been driving under the influence of marijuana or cannabis products.

“We can do blood tests on impaired drivers, but as of right now there’s not a recognized roadside test like a (portable breath test) that you see on TV,” Martin said. “There’s nothing I’m aware of that has been approved by the scientific community yet for that purpose.”

Though blood tests can be performed in the field, Martin said it is a more invasive procedure than issuing a portable breath test.

The new law will not

automatically create much change

While the new law has created several questions about how to consume marijuana or cannabis products, Martin said he does not anticipate any major changes immediately.

He said he encourages students to educate themselves on the legal use of marijuana or cannabis products so they do not violate the student code of conduct or the law.

While the student code of conduct prohibits the consumption of marijuana or cannabis products on campus, students can technically be under the influence of marijuana or cannabis products as long as they are not interfering with the operation of the institution or causing a problem.

It is against the Office of Student Standards’ Code of Conduct to be incapacitated “due to the abuse of alcohol or a controlled or other intoxicating substance, or appearing in a public place manifestly under the influence of such, particularly when there is danger to self, others, or property or there is unreasonable annoyance to others.”

As for UPD, Martin said the department will have to learn and adapt as the year progresses.

“This is something where UPD is going to have to help educate the campus and we’ve got a plan now for how we’re going to deal with this, but this is uncharted territory,” Martin said. “There’s going to be a learning curve, so as we get into it, we may find out that we need to do things differently just because they’re not practical.”


Corryn Brock and Hannah Shillo can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]