University of Colorado freshman Mattison Bills moved off campus midway through the school year because she wasn't allowed to smoke pot in her Baker Hall dorm room.
Bills -- who said she secured a medical marijuana license to remedy her nausea -- said she sometimes broke the dorm rules because the drug helps her focus on schoolwork. She said she thinks CU should have designated smoking rooms for students who are legally allowed to smoke for medicinal purposes.
"I understood I'd be in trouble with the school, but I couldn't get in trouble with the cops," Bills said.
With the boom in medical marijuana licenses, CU and other colleges across the state are ironing out rules for pot on their campuses.
At CU, it's banned in the dorms -- whether or not student-residents have licenses. In fact, the university has, on a handful of occasions over the past year, helped freshmen find off-campus housing if they smoke marijuana for medicinal purposes, said Boulder campus spokesman Bronson Hilliard. Those students are waived from the CU requirement that they live on the campus their first year at school.
CU's chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws suggests that the university offer campus housing for students with medical marijuana licenses, like the specialized dorms for engineering students. That way, students who smoke weed for medicinal purposes aren't deprived of the perks that come with living on the campus among their peers, said Alex Douglas, executive director of CU's chapter of NORML.
"We want students to enjoy all aspects of college life," said Douglas, a CU student who lives off campus and has his medical marijuana license. "We don't want them to miss out on their freshman years."
Ideally, he said, marijuana would be legal for all, and students could smoke in the dorms. He said he understands the fire-hazard concerns that campus officials have about smoking in the dorms, and he suggests that there be designated lounges.
For Bills, living off campus has become somewhat inconvenient, she said, because she needs to shuttle back and forth to meet and study with her fellow freshman friends. She said she doesn't think students who live in the dorms should be forced to go off campus to light up because it can be dangerous for young women during night hours and the weather isn't always permitting.
Hilliard acknowledged that the sudden onset of medical marijuana licenses complicates how the university approaches its drug policies.
In Boulder County, about 2,000 people have medical marijuana licenses, making up 11 percent of the patients statewide, according to statistics released in the fall by the Colorado Department of Public Health.
Hilliard said CU officials are concerned that allowing students in the residence halls to possess marijuana could cause them to be victims of robberies or burglaries.
Marijuana is not allowed on the campus, said CU police spokeswoman Molly Bosley, and students with medical marijuana licenses must use the drug off campus in their private residences. In about 5 percent to 10 percent of the marijuana incidents on the campus, the people being questioned show medical marijuana licenses -- a trend that began emerging in 2009, she said.
At Colorado State University and the University of Northern Colorado, marijuana is not allowed in the dorms or on the campus, spokesmen for the schools said.
CSU spokesman Brad Bohlander said there have been discussions surrounding medical marijuana use by students and employees, but no policies have been adopted.
Nate Haas, spokesman for UNC, said the campus continues to review its policies.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Brittany Anas at 303-473-1132 or firstname.lastname@example.org.