On January 1, 2018, California legalized the use of recreational marijuana by adults age 21 and over. Medical marijuana also remains legal and may be used by people under age 21 with a doctor's recommendation (and consent of a parent if the patient is under 18).
But marijuana remains an illegal Schedule I controlled substance under federal law. In order to receive grants and other funds from the federal government, institutions of higher learning must abide by federal drug laws.
The result is people may not possess marijuana at any educational institution that receives federal funding. It doesn't matter whether it is medical marijuana or whether the weed is kept solely in a dorm.
What California colleges prohibit weed on campus?
In California, institutions that receive federal funding include:
- The University of California,
- The California State University system, and
- Community colleges.
This means that even though weed may be otherwise legal in California, it cannot be possessed on these campuses, whether in a dorm room or otherwise.
Weed may be kept in dorms at private colleges and universities if:
- The school receives no federal funding, and
- Marijuana use or possession on campus is permitted by school policy and possessed or consumed only where it is allowed.
As a practical matter, violators caught with weed on campus are more likely to be subject to disciplinary action (such as required counseling) rather than arrest.
Depending on the specific institution's policy, however, repeat users may face expulsion. And in the rare event the student is charged with and convicted of a crime, the student could lose any future federal financial aid and have to pay back outstanding loans.
How can I protect myself on campus?
Our best advice: if you are in college and want to use marijuana, live off-campus and leave your weed at home.
And to further minimize your risk, take the following precautions (although none are guaranteed):
- Get your medical marijuana registry card,
- Consume your marijuana in the form of edibles or tinctures, or use a vaporizer,
- Do not share or sell your medical marijuana, and
- Make sure you know your school's marijuana policy.