Steamboat Springs It was an awkward moment when Steamboat Springs Police Department officers were called Jan. 13 to a report of a Colorado Mountain College student who had marijuana in his dorm room.
Police confirmed the man had a medical marijuana card but didn't issue him any sort of summons because he wasn't violating city laws.
Still, the man was breaking the college's rule that forbids possessing marijuana on campus.
“The police are in a difficult spot. The college administrators are in a difficult spot,” said Brian Hoza, the dean of student affairs for CMC's Alpine Campus.
The campus penalties for marijuana possession can range from rehabilitation programs to suspension from college housing or expulsion.
The call about marijuana and the disconnect between the laws at the campus and the laws just down the street is just one of the situations the local college campus is adapting to after the legalization of marijuana for adults 21 and older in Colorado.
Hoza said some students who are legally old enough to possess it have in recent months have questioned the campus rules forbidding the drug.
They point to city and state laws as a reason it shouldn't be illegal at school.
“We definitely have that age range where students are impacted,” Hoza said. “The greatest confusion is some students do not understand we receive federal funding, such as financial aid and grants, and we are bound by federal laws, not state laws.”
For Hoza, the legalization of marijuana for adults is the latest societal shift he has seen in his education career that spans more than 30 years.
As a housing director at the University of Colorado in the 1980s, he watched as 18-year-old students had to adapt to new rules about alcohol that were more restrictive than the ones they had known.
He also has seen debates about such things as restricting visitor access to dorm rooms and whether students should be allowed to carry concealed weapons on college campuses.
Through it all, Hoza said, the mission of the schools he has worked for has remained the same.
“The learning environment needs to be safe and secure, and people need to feel comfortable,” he said. “It's where they're learning, and they're learning things that become life habits.”
Colorado Mountain College has engaged with students about the issue of marijuana legalization in recent months using social media and in conversations with students.
Hoza said education about the rules is ongoing.
“There's kind of an attitude of pushback of not understanding if it's OK here, and why it's not OK in this space,” Hoza said. “Some students are trying to understand that. We have those kind of conversations all the time."
He said that for some, the “pressure to have more and use more has increased.”
“That's a challenge,” he said.
As the college continues to adapt to the societal shift, local substance abuse prevention groups and the new retail pot shops are speaking out and stressing responsibility in the new era of pot sales.
Grand Futures Prevention Coalition will focus its educational efforts on parents.
And Rocky Mountain Remedies, the first retail pot shop to open in Steamboat, has strict policies in place to prevent the sale of marijuana to minors.
“The owners and employees of RMR all are residents of the Yampa Valley,” co-owner Kevin Fisher recently wrote in a letter published in the Steamboat Today. “As our community’s fortunes go, so go ours.”
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10
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