The state of Ohio legalized medical marijuana in 2016. Since then, residents 18 years or older have been able to use marijuana products to treat medical issues from AIDS to epilepsy.
Most residents, that is.
Federal law still prohibits the use of marijuana for any reason. Because Miami University receives federal funding, it’s obligated to enforce federal policies.
Kimberly Moore, dean of students, wrote in an email to The Miami Student that the university’s official policy on marijuana prohibits its use in any form on campus policy regardless of medical benefits. Even students with medical cards aren’t exempt, though she wrote the university can make accommodations.
“Students who are legally permitted to use medical marijuana can apply for an exemption from the residence life and dining requirement, so they can live off campus as first or second year students,” Moore said.
Regardless of university policy, students still use marijuana on their own terms.
“It takes me out of that headspace”
For one off-campus student, marijuana has proven to be an effective treatment for his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and anxiety.
“I have PTSD, and the pandemic was making it pretty much insufferable,” he said. “I couldn’t wake up without experiencing it. I couldn’t eat because that was tied into it.”
The student had used marijuana to self-medicate in the past, but during the pandemic, he got his doctor’s approval to use it legally. He received his card in an email and uses it to purchase products at Bloom Medicinals, a nearby dispensary in Seven Mile, 15 minutes from Oxford.
“For me, it just immediately takes me out of that headspace,” he said. “I don’t usually get to a point where I’m high. It just clears my head up enough that the traumatic thoughts will step aside so I can focus on the things I need to do for my day.”
Depending on the symptoms the student wants to treat, he gets products with different balances of cannabis compounds like THC, CBD and delta-8. Some products are more effective at treating headaches or chronic pain, some help people stay calm through the workday and some help users fall asleep.
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Even though he uses marijuana legally, the student said he feels marijuana use is stigmatized at Miami.
“I’ll get more flack for my medical marijuana than people will for underage drinking, even though what I’m doing is technically more legal,” he said. “I have a couple friends who will tell me, ‘I drink, but I never smoke,’ and it’s just annoying for me because … me smoking isn’t like, ‘We’re out smoking a joint.’ It’s medicine.”
“It’s more like a mom and pop store”
One student attended Ohio State University (OSU) last year before transferring to Miami. He said the culture surrounding marijuana at Miami is less intense.
“There was a very widespread drug market [at OSU],” the transfer student said. “Here, I feel like it’s more like a mom and pop store … You will meet someone inevitably freshman year somehow, and you’ll be like, ‘Yo, that was the dude who was smoking. That was the dude who was high. That was the dude who was always mugging around his dorm.’”
The student uses marijuana recreationally. He lives off-campus, but he said even if he was in a residence hall he wouldn’t be concerned about getting in trouble with campus staff or resident assistants (RAs).
“I think some of the RAs did it too,” he said. “But who minds at the end of the day?”
For the transfer student, the federal status of marijuana is unjustified because the drug is less dangerous than alcohol. While there are no recorded cases of people ingesting a lethal dose of marijuana, alcohol consumption leads to almost 100 thousand deaths each year in the U.S.
The student said, in his opinion, the economic and social benefits of legalizing marijuana federally far outweigh any potential negative consequences.
“There’s just gonna be more and more problems [if weed isn’t recreationally legal],” he said. “It’s just a waste of federal resources.”
“People don’t hide from the fact that they smoke marijuana”
One on-campus student didn’t start using marijuana until coming to Miami’s campus. He said the first group of friends he made on campus all smoked, so he joined in.
“Most people that smoke weed are open about it,” he said. “People don’t really hide from the fact that they smoke marijuana … A lot of people I know smoke.”
For him, marijuana is more social than anything else. While he enjoys the effects, he does it more to bond with friends than to get high.
When he had to stop smoking for a few weeks to pass a drug test, he said he wasn’t pushed by his friends to join in, though the lack of pressure was partially because he had a specific reason not to smoke.
“In my friend group, there’s people who smoke and there’s people who don’t smoke,” he said. “We’ll ask them, ‘Hey, do you want to hit this?’ And they’ll be like, ‘No,’ and sometimes we’ll pressure them a little bit but we always let off if they say no a second time.”
“No way we’re gonna get caught”
One student said she started smoking marijuana when she was 14. In high school, she smoked once every couple weeks, but at college she smokes three to four times a week.
She lives off campus now, but she said when she lived in a dorm, she and her friends would find secluded places nearby to smoke with less risk of getting caught. Still, their most frequent spot had a walkway nearby, and people sometimes walked by while she and her friends were smoking.
“We would all put all of our stuff away and just kind of sit there,” she said. “We would have the conversation that was like, ‘Oh no, no way we’re gonna get caught. It’s just another student, don’t worry about it.’”
She and her friends never did get caught, but she said now that she’s off campus there’s less fear involved when she wants to smoke.
As a first-year, she was concerned about not knowing who to buy from, but that fear quickly went away.
“Once you find one person to buy from, you find 100 people to buy from,” she said.
In middle school, she said her teachers made a point to talk about peer pressure and how to resist it. The perception that people who used marijuana would try to force others to try it has proven to be false in her experience, though.
“I can’t say I’ve ever personally witnessed peer pressure, and I don’t know anyone that has,” she said. “No stoner is going to look at you and force you to smoke a joint. That just means more for them.”
“There’s stronger stuff at Miami than just weed”
One student who started smoking marijuana in middle school said he was surprised by the number of people at Miami who casually smoke. While he said smoking seems to be less prevalent than drinking, most students are comfortable knowing people who smoke.
“[Drinking] is something that most people do, like 98%,” the student said. “I feel like smoking is something that 98% is okay with. I would not say the same 98% smokes, [but] I would say that people are generally okay with it, but they won’t necessarily join.”
He supports legalizing marijuana recreationally so the funds currently used to bust non-violent offenses could potentially be put toward addiction services.
At Miami, he said there are students who use drugs like psychedelics and cocaine. When students pull out harder drugs or say they use them, he said people are cautious but not judgmental.
“There’s stronger stuff at Miami than just weed,” he said. “There’s definitely cocaine that’s pretty prevalent around Miami: It’s in a lot of the frats and outside of the frats, like freshmen are still doing it. There are a lot of people who do especially cocaine but also other drugs … like psychedelics are pretty common around Miami.”