Michigan will vote on whether to legalize recre­ational mar­i­juana in the general election on Nov. 6. Wiki­media Commons

Use of recre­ational mar­i­juana becomes legal for adults over 21 years old in Michigan on Thursday, but at Hillsdale College, drug policy remains the same: Stu­dents and employees of the college may not use or possess mar­i­juana.

The college forbids mar­i­juana because there is “strong evi­dence that it is bad for one and hurts one’s ability to think and work at a high level,” said Hillsdale College Pres­ident Larry Arnn in an email.

“The college was founded to ‘improve the hearts and develop the minds’ of the stu­dents. This refers to the moral and intel­lectual virtues, both of which are involved in this policy,” Arnn said.

The college’s drug policy as found in the course cat­a­logue forbids “use, pos­session, dis­tri­b­ution, or being in the presence of any amount of a con­trolled sub­stance (drugs and/or drug para­pher­nalia: water pipes, bongs, etc.)” for stu­dents. The policy holds stu­dents accountable for both on- and off-campus behavior, said Dean of Men Aaron Petersen.

This policy is in keeping with the college’s desire to cul­tivate stu­dents who are “healthy, strong human beings,” said Dean of Women Diane Philipp in a statement pro­vided to The Col­legian.

For college employees, too, drug policy remains as written.

The college’s employee handbook states that “the unlawful man­u­facture, dis­tri­b­ution, dis­pensing, pos­session, or use of a con­trolled sub­stance is pro­hibited at the College.”

Though the college does not have to rewrite its employee policy in light of the changes in Michigan law, the human resources department did send out a statement to faculty and staff in a newsletter on Monday to reaffirm the policy.

The statement cited federal law — which still crim­i­nalizes mar­i­juana use — and health con­se­quences as the reasons for banning mar­i­juana for employees. But law is not the fun­da­mental factor in the policy.

“Federal law says it’s illegal,” said Chief Admin­is­trative Officer Rich Péwé. “But regardless of that, we would not want it on campus.”

Péwé said mar­i­juana would be “dis­ruptive” to a good working envi­ronment and counter the college’s mission. He said mar­i­juana use among employees at the college is “very rare,” and that he’s had to deal with it perhaps once in 20 years.

“We expect a lot from each other,” he said, noting that all orga­ni­za­tions make policies for conduct that reflect who the orga­ni­zation is. “As employees, you rep­resent the college. We want to be good human beings. Mar­i­juana changes people’s lives, and usually not in a good way.”

Mar­i­juana presents sig­nif­icant health con­cerns, said Director of Health Ser­vices Brock Lutz, noting that studies have shown that it leads to cog­nitive impairment and cor­re­lates with schiz­o­phrenia, but many of its effects are unknown.

“The chal­lenge is that we just don’t know,” Lutz said. “There are health con­cerns and I think, most of all, health ques­tions.”

Lutz said mar­i­juana also has “insidious” emo­tional con­se­quences from the drug’s sedative effect, which sets long-term users into a mood of com­pla­cency toward life.

“I’ve noticed among people who are con­sistent mar­i­juana users is there is a slow-growing medi­ocrity that sets in. It really mimics what it looks like when someone’s depressed,” Lutz said.

Other Michigan col­leges are also still banning mar­i­juana, despite the change in state law. Spring Arbor Uni­versity forbids mar­i­juana, including medical mar­i­juana, for stu­dents of any age on and off campus, and will not be changing that policy, said Dan Van­derhill, vice pres­ident of student devel­opment. Van­derhill cited “per­sonal health, spir­itual health, and safety” as the reasons for the policy.

The Uni­versity of Michigan’s drug policy on its website declares that the change in state law does not change the school’s no-drug policy for stu­dents and employees on campus, citing federal law.

“U-M receives federal funding for various uses, including research and student financial aid,” the policy states. “As such, U-M must comply with federal law, including all current federal drug laws.”

In a memo to stu­dents and staff, Jackson College also cited federal law and federal funding as reasons for main­taining its no-drug policy.

But if federal law were to legalize mar­i­juana, Hillsdale College policy likely would remain the same.

“That fact alone would not make us change,” Arnn said. “Two reasons why we do not always follow only the law: the college has a dif­ferent purpose from the country, although the pur­poses are com­patible; laws can be silly and wrong­headed. We must obey them, but we are not restricted to doing only what they say.”

Petersen said he doesn’t often have to deal with student mar­i­juana use.

“Thank­fully, it is not some­thing I have to deal with a lot,” he said. “However, it comes up. Every one to two years I will have to address mar­i­juana use with a student or two.”

A sub­stance-addicted life is the opposite of what a Hillsdale student’s life should look like, Lutz said.

“We really want our stu­dents to display grit and resilience and courage in facing life’s problems, because I think our per­spective is that people grow and they change as people when they face hard things and go through hard things,” Lutz said. “Drugs stop you from dealing with life. They hide it.”

  • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

    Hillsdale College is not required to allow mar­i­juana use on campus, just as they can pro­hibit use of alco­holic spirits or tobacco smoking. I believe Michigan made a serious mistake allowing use of this drug. Be that as it may, Hillsdale is prudent to keep it off campus. They should adjust their Honor Code to include use of drugs including mar­i­juana, if it isn’t already called out as such.

    • Jen­nifer Melfi

      unfor­tu­nately it’s already on campus, and in somewhat sig­nif­icant quan­tities. They are college kids. They exper­iment. Wrong­headed and counter-pro­ductive move here. Also, the quo­ta­tions from the staff and Dr. Arnn are fac­tually incorrect. Dean Peterson’s statement is untrue/false/lie.

      • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

        I have no doubt there are some who are imbibing, kids are kids. But they’d be better off not doing that. I don’t claim to be an expert on Mar­i­juana, I have tried it a few times back when I was that age and didn’t like the sen­sation.

        The member of my family who are regular users are dis­ap­pointing and non-achievers within the family, they have accom­plished almost nothing with their lives in 50 – 60 years. There seems to be a cor­re­lation between heavy use of dope and dimin­ished interest in achievement. Mind you, this is my obser­vation over 64 years of life and not a sci­en­tific study-perhaps the relax­ation effect of the THC is similar to Xanax and it dulls the ‘drive’ that makes us achievers. Dunno.

  • Jen­nifer Melfi

    by citing uni­versity of michigan as a reason for upholding a ban on mar­i­juana, Hillsdale has abdi­cated the tiny amount of moral authority that still remained. They have sac­ri­ficed their prin­ciples by renouncing freedom and banning the drug, and then citing a place that they nor­mally use a sort of “evil-empire” for com­parison. SAD!

    • Ellsworth_Toohey

      It’s not clear what you are sug­gesting. Uni­versity of Michigan’s admis­sions require­ments are tougher then Hillsdale’s you are aware? And the fact they do (openly) accept federal money seems like a logical reason.

      • Jen­nifer Melfi

        Hillsdale nor­mally cites u of m as an example of what not to do, saying that hillsdale is morally and tech­ni­cally superior. Now, hillsdale is using u of m as cover to defend their choice to not do the right thing.

        • Ellsworth_Toohey

          I know, and it get’s tiring. Sorry I thought you were doing it. With freedom comes great respon­si­bility. I know some UofM stu­dents who crashed and burn, but I know many more who went onto great things. College is what you make of it.

          • Jen­nifer Melfi

            Agreed. Always up for good convos on here. I just believe that by setting yourself up on a higher ground, you have higher respon­si­bility. The quo­ta­tions pro­vided here are not a well-thought out position. I also know that the dean is being dis­honest, as they usually have 4 – 10 run ins with mar­i­juana per year

  • Rogue A.I.

    Fear mon­gering against mar­i­juana is what has allowed the unjust War on Drugs to con­tinue, at the cost of bil­lions of dollars and countless lives ruined by incar­cer­ation.

    Stereo­typing mar­i­juana as some­thing only lazy people do is inac­curate. People across all walks of life use mar­i­juana for a variety of reasons.

    Intel­lectual honesty should be a virtue Hillsdale admin­is­trators, faculty and stu­dents aspire to.

    I don’t per­sonally use any drugs or alcohol, but I think out­lawing mar­i­juana is in vio­lation of per­sonal freedoms. People that promote the War on Drugs hate per­sonal freedom and indi­vidual liberty. Anyone that claims to value freedom and liberty yet sup­ports the War on Drugs is a rank hyp­ocrite.

    For­tu­nately Hillsdale’s dic­tates don’t include the force of law.

    • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

      ‘I don’t per­sonally use any drugs or alcohol, but I think out­lawing mar­i­juana is in vio­lation of per­sonal freedoms. People that promote the War on Drugs hate per­sonal freedom and indi­vidual liberty. Anyone that claims to value freedom and liberty yet sup­ports the War on Drugs is a rank hyp­ocrite.’

      Rather harsh. We don’t live in an absolutely free society, on that we agree. There are things that we, as a society, determine are not in the best interests OF THE WHOLE. Yelling ‘Fire’ in a crowded theater is the classic example-it’s a hedge on Freedom of Speech, but one most of us agree on.

      Anyone who has been to Ams­terdam recently can tell you what no restric­tions on Mar­i­juana use does to society. If you’ve never been there, you should go. It’s not a handsome sight.

      • Rogue A.I.

        Fine, you dis­agree. There’s another angle, however. The prac­tical one: pro­hi­bition doesn’t work. It places huge costs on society, in the growth of illegal drug gangs, the mass incar­cer­ation of indi­viduals and the fam­ilies destroyed. Mass incar­cer­ation costs double, the cost to arrest, convict and house inmates and the lost pro­duc­tivity as well. The world hasn’t ended in the states that have legalized mar­i­juana. I’ve been to Ams­terdam and it didn’t seem out of control.

        • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

          So because pro­hi­bition doesn’t work well you propose com­plete legal­ization? Odd argument in my opinion.

          Ams­terdam is a cesspool, I’ve been there and through there many times on business. Whether it seemed ‘out of control’ in your view is another dis­cussion. Not a model for a dynamic society, in my view.