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Marijuana on our Christian Campus

Hashtag Cannabis is located near the SPU campus, making it easily accessible to students. (Devin Murray)

When it comes to cannabis, Seattle Pacific University stands apart from the other two major universities within the boundaries of Emerald City.

According to Section 10.4 of the SPU Student Handbook, “Students who possess, distribute, and/or use narcotics on or off campus (including medical marijuana, prescription drug abuse, salvia, any form of hallucinogens, paraphernalia, etc.) or other intoxicants on or off campus will be subject to the disciplinary process.

The University of Washington and Seattle University only explicitly prohibit green product for on-campus activities, largely due to their federal funding. This is the reason most colleges and universities nationwide ban the product for campus-sponsored events.

According to Jeff Jordan, vice provost for student education and community engagement, the stricter version of the SPU policy exists to encourage the health and well-being of SPU students, and is largely influenced by tradition. Free Methodist University.

“From what we understand, from the research, there are a lot of struggles about the positives of marijuana use,” Jordan explained. “In terms of general use or recreational use, there’s not much that we saw as a positive reason behind any of this, now it’s being debated, but for our university community, that’s our reasoning about it.”

SPU has maintained an affiliation with the Free Methodist Church since 1891 and since then the church has had a strong influence on school policies and lifestyle expectations.

According to the Free Methodist Church’s Book of Resolutions, “We urge all people to abstain from the use of marijuana unless it has been lawfully prescribed in a form appropriate to treat a particular medical condition. “

SPU theology professor Dave Nienhuis explained that these policies are deeply rooted in the Free Methodist temperance tradition.

“For SPU, the story is rooted in our Free Methodist heritage, which found much of its guiding vision in the proclamation and practice of freedom,” Nienhuis said. “Freedom from slavery, freedom for women in leadership, freedom from poverty, free/egalitarian association in local congregations, and, to the point of your question, freedom from the addictive, especially because such things have particularly negative effects on those who are poor.”

About a decade ago, SPU changed its student handbook to allow students over the age of 21 to drink alcohol off campus. At the time of the policy change, marijuana was still illegal in Washington State, which is no longer the case.

Philosophy professor Patrick McDonald believes this is ethically inconsistent and he doesn’t think SPU should handle the lives of students over the age of 21.

“We can decide to find common ground where we go beyond what is strictly legal in the ethical character that we are trying to promote,” McDonald explained. “But I think it should be a pretty clear and overriding part of our Christian mission to do that and I don’t see how responsibly regulating marijuana use off campus for students over 21 is anything.” thing. required by our Christian mission or by other ethical considerations.

McDonald is also concerned that strict policies such as SPU’s marijuana ban may have unequal impacts on different students from different demographics.

“What if they fine you and you can’t pay the $300? So what? I think they suspended your registration,” McDonald said. “So who is this going to affect the most?” People who can’t pay the fine. If mum and dad cannot pay the fine or if there is no mum or dad, they bear the brunt.

Jordan said the university worked with the students to pay the fine.

“We work with students linked to the fine. They can appeal and we can usually work with students on how to pay or other options. Usually it’s individual situations,” Jordan said.

In a survey of 101 SPU undergraduates, 83% said they did not think SPU should ban marijuana for students over the age of 21 who use off campus.

Interior design junior Jazmin Aquilar disagrees with SPU’s off-campus marijuana policy.

“When you’re an adult, it doesn’t matter what I or any other adult does off campus, what happens off campus is none of SPU’s business,” Aquilar said.

Chris Girard, a cannabis attorney for the law firm Cultiva, practices cannabis law in Washington State. He says SPU’s off-campus marijuana ban is not a legal matter and is simply a private agreement between students and the university.

“You’re just part of a club then,” Girard said. “You have to accept the club or they won’t let you go.”

Girard explained that when universities use federal funding to justify tough marijuana policies, they are stretching the actual language of the law and students are at greater personal risk than schools if caught in possession of cannabis. on federal property.

“As far as the campus goes, they would have to prove that the school was complicit, that they knew it was happening under their noses and that they were taking bribes,” Girard explained. “If someone is arrested, if you accept federal funds, student loans, Pell grants or anything like that and you are charged with drugs, you can no longer get federal funding for the school. “

Girard thinks marijuana policies that prohibit adult students from possessing or using the substance off campus are outdated policies, and he hopes students will challenge them more in the future.

“Someone has to challenge that,” Girard said. “It’s something that, if challenged, would be accepted, I imagine. There aren’t too many people against people who do things at their own pace.