CHENEY, Wash – It's been more than three months since voters in Washington State passed Initiative 502 legalizing marijuana.
But even though the drug is technically legal according to the state, it's still illegal under federal law. But because they received federal funding, the rules at colleges and universities are different, and most campuses have a zero-tolerance policy.
But that's not stopping students from getting high.
At Eastern Washington University in Cheney, there were 20 drug arrests made during the entire 2011-2012 academic year. But so far this year, they've already had 28 drug calls – with several months left to go.
"You can extrapolate that out, and say, if we keep doing that we're going to close to triple our number of drug calls this year," said Deputy Chief Gary Gasseling of Eastern Washington University Police.
But the problem is limited to pot.
"We're seeing an upswing in our alcohol, we're seeing an upswing in our drugs, we're seeing an upswing in our assaults," he added.
EWU is also seeing record-high student enrollment, which may explain some of the numbers.
"Once, I think, they saw the fact that 502 passed, they think, ‘Oh it's legal.' Well read the fine print," Deputy Chief Gasseling also said.
While buying marijuana is still illegal under I-502, the initiative does limit marijuana use to those over 21, not in public, who can have less than an ounce. But those rules are only for public property.
"The student disciplinary conduct code says you can't be under the influence. So if you come back onto the campus and you start raising holy heck, guess what? You're going to go through the process."
He told KHQ most of the cases are happening in residence halls, and usually in very small amounts – between 1 and 5 grams. An adult following the legal restrictions of I-502 is allowed to posses roughly 28 grams (1 ounce).
"If they're using in the halls, or they get caught smoking inside the residence halls, they're probably going to get booted out," he explained. "If they're selling - guaranteed they're going to get kicked out of the residence halls. They can find somewhere else to live."
EWU Police work closely with police at other campuses, including Washington State University, University of Washington, Western Washington University, and Eastern Washington University, as well as Gonzaga and the Riverpoint campus in Spokane.
Deputy Chief Gasseling said most of those partners are also seeing an uptick in marijuana cases on campus.
"It's not just the drugs, it's the attitude and the choices kids are making right now," he said. "They're here to get an education."
Sunday, December 8 2013 3:05 AM EST2013-12-08 08:05:29 GMT
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