President Bruce Benson
When Colorado voters in November passed Amendment 64, which legalized small amounts of marijuana for personal use, it led to a number of questions. Most uncertainty surrounds the conflict between the new state law and federal law, under which marijuana remains illegal. Amendment 64 will be signed into law in January and take effect in January 2014.
But for the University of Colorado, the issue is clear. Marijuana threatens to cost the university nearly a billion dollars annually in federal revenue, money we can ill afford to lose.
I was personally opposed to Amendment 64 and worked on my own time to defeat it. But it passed and CU, like many entities, is working to determine the implications.
The glaring practical problem is that we stand to lose significant federal funding. CU must comply with the federal Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act, which compels us to ban illicit drugs from campus. Our campuses bring in more than $800 million in federal research funds, not to mention nearly an additional $100 million in funding for student financial aid. The loss of that funding would have substantial ripple effects on our students and our state. CU contributes $5.3 billion to Colorado's economy annually, a good portion of it derived from our research.
Additionally, we have worked hard to fight the image of CU as a party school. While we are not naïve about the behavior of some of our students, we know that the party school image is vastly overstated. The publications that promote such nonsense, such as Playboy and the Princeton Review, use research methodology that would earn them an "F" in any CU class. The vast majority of our students are serious and hardworking and don't appreciate that their school's reputation is sullied by suspect methodology and vague notions.
Likewise, the 4/20 event we worked to shut down last year (and will continue to in coming years), paints a picture of CU that is far from accurate. More than two-thirds of those who participate are not CU students. Regardless, it is not what we want our university known for.
We are not only within our rights to ban marijuana on our campuses, it is the right thing to do. Many insist the legalization votes in Colorado and Washington state are in part a referendum on the war on drugs, and the point is hard to argue. That is a discussion we should have as a society. However, in a tenuous funding environment, the possibility of losing nearly a billion dollars is a chance we simply cannot take. We have better things to focus on.
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