Just because the City of Philadelphia will not arrest you for smoking pot starting next month, it doesn’t mean that Penn will not punish you for lighting up on campus.
Last week, the Philadelphia City Council passed a bill that would decriminalize public consumption of small amounts of marijuana. Starting on Oct. 20, if a person is carrying under one ounce of marijuana, he or she will be cited and fined $25, but won’t go to jail. If a person is caught consuming marijuana publicly, he will be cited and fined $100 or required to do up to nine hours of community service.
However, the University will continue to regard marijuana use on campus as a punishable offense, said Julie Nettleton , interim director of the Office of Student Conduct, who is still serving as director of the Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Program Initiatives . If Mayor Michael Nutter signs the decriminalization bill, which he is expected to do, the bill “really [wouldn’t] change much” at Penn, Nettleton said.
“When it comes to the University prohibiting marijuana use and having students held accountable for it on campus, we actually have to abide by federal laws, which say that we can’t allow it,” she explained.
The main reason for this is federal funding — if Penn doesn’t follow federal marijuana laws, it will be at risk of losing money which funds research and financial aid for students, Nettleton said.
“In terms of University policy, our policy continues to be that it’s illegal and prohibited on campus,” Nettleton said. “If you are found in possession of or using [marijuana], we can hold you accountable” through Penn’s disciplinary process, she added.
“Students might perceive it to be less risky, or less harmful, or less looked down upon [to use marijuana], and therefore feel free to use more openly. My biggest message to them is that the University’s stance doesn’t change,” she said.
A representative from the Division of Public Safety declined to comment while the legislation and its implementation are still being finalized.
Michael Fienman, a criminal defense lawyer in Philadelphia, also said that the decriminalization of marijuana doesn’t mean that Penn students will get a “free pass” to smoke pot. “It’s important for UPenn students to know, just because the city decriminalizes small amount of marijuana, it’s doesn’t mean that the school thinks it’s okay,” he said. “Penn Police are sworn officers and they are able to cite and arrest students for violations.”
Fienman also emphasized that it is still illegal to smoke marijuana before driving, and that students can be arrested for doing so.
“I would caution students not to think that this is a free-pass to go to smoke a joint in their dorm or on their way to class: You still do get caught, still get fined, may not be arrested, but still [are] gonna have to deal with it,” Fienman said.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.