Safe To Smoke Marijuana At Arizona Colleges? Here Are The Rules

Photo Credit: Michael Schennum

Smoking marijuana on the campuses of Arizona’s three public universities is still forbidden.

While the Arizona Supreme Court ruled May 23 that the medical marijuana cardholders can’t face criminal charges for on-campus pot use, that doesn’t mean it’s a pot free-for-all at state colleges now.

College students with and without medical marijuana cards can face serious consequences for lighting up.

Here’s what to know about marijuana as an Arizona college student:

What universities say about drugs

The Arizona Board of Regents have an extensive student code of conduct that prohibits all kinds of behavior, from assault to cheating to hazing.

Among the prohibited acts in the code of conduct: “Unauthorized use, sale, possession, or distribution of any controlled substance or illegal drug or possession of drug paraphernalia that would violate the law.”

This includes both on- and off-campus drug use and possession.

Arizona State University, the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University all follow the regents’ conduct policy.

The regents also require the universities to be drug-free workplaces.

Universities also have to comply with federal laws or could risk the loss of federal funds, they contend.

So, while medical marijuana cardholders may not be subject to arrest for having pot, the universities can still enforce their administrative policies that prohibit drugs on campus.

For non-students with cards who use or have marijuana on campus, they could be asked to leave and face trespassing charges if they refuse, said attorney Tom Dean, who specializes in marijuana laws.

Employees who violate the drug policy can also face sanctions. ASU’s policy says sanctions can include discipline, losing their job or required drug-education programs.

You got caught with pot on campus. What now?

The regents’ code of conduct includes a wide variety of disciplinary actions the school could take if someone breaks the rules.

The dean of students at each campus has discretion to impose sanctions for violations.

Consequences for conduct code violations could include suspension, expulsion, revoking a degree, warnings, probation, administrative hold, restricted access to university property, restitution, notation on transcripts or required educational programs.

The sanction depends on the severity of the offense and previous violations.

“Repeated violations of the Student Code of Conduct may result in the imposition of progressively more severe sanctions, although any sanction may be imposed as appropriate under the circumstances,” the code states.

Whether criminal charges are filed is up to the discretion of the agency that arrests you. Though, as the Supreme Court decided yesterday, medical marijuana cardholders on campus will no longer be subject to criminal charges.

Possessing or being under the influence of drugs could also mean an eviction from university housing.

Will my parents find out?


Federal law permits universities to notify parents of alcohol and drug violations that happen on campus for students who are under age 21, Northern Arizona University notes on its website.

“NAU views parents as important partners in the education of students, thus the university may notify parents when their student has been involved in a serious or repeated alcohol or other drug violation,” the website says.

What about the law on non-medical use of marijuana?

If you don’t have a medical card, it’s still illegal in Arizona to use and possess marijuana.

That includes college campuses.

Students using marijuana without a medical card could still face criminal charges. It’s a class 6 felony to possess marijuana, though first-time offenses are routinely reduced to a misdemeanor. You also could be eligible for drug diversion programs that would dismiss the criminal charge upon completion.

People still can’t smoke marijuana in public places regardless of cardholder status, as the medical marijuana law prohibits it.