Despite the coming legalization of marijuana in Washington State starting December 6th per Initiative 502 passed by voters last month, the University of Washington will continue to enforce existing federal law prohibiting pot possession. UW reasons it cannot risk losing its federal funding by contradicting federal drug rules. From UW’s Vice Provost of Student Life, Eric S. Godfrey:
While I-502 decriminalized the possession and use of small quantities of marijuana for those 21 and over, it is important to note that under federal law, the possession and use of even small amounts of marijuana remain a federal crime. Though voters in the state passed the Initiative, possessing and using marijuana on or in any University facilities will remain against the law.
As a recipient of federal funds, such as financial aid and federal grants and contracts, the University of Washington must comply with the Safe & Drug Free Schools and Communities Act and the Drug-Free Workplace Act. Compliance requires maintaining a drug-free campus. If the University does not comply with federal laws and regulations on marijuana possession and use on campus, it risks losing federal funds. Accordingly the passage of I-502 will not change current University of Washington policies prohibiting production, distribution, possession or use of marijuana on University property or during University-sponsored activities… A violation of these policies may lead to sanctions under the student conduct code, the general code of conduct or the University rules applicable to faculty and staff.
While Washington State will uphold its new voter-approved marijuana laws, the state’s largest public university will operate independently. This conflict raises the question: by contradicting Washington State law, does UW risk losing state funding?