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.”