Expelled Students Sue Colleges Over Medical Marijuana Rules

College students being kicked out of academic programs for state-legal medical marijuana use are taking legal action against schools.

State and federal cannabis laws are colliding on college campuses across the United States. In states with legalization, students who face disciplinary action for using medical cannabis are fighting back through legal action.

Nursing students and others studying medical specialties are often subject to drug testing under school policy. While state laws affirm medical marijuana use by qualifying patients, college officials argue they are at risk of losing federal funds if they fail to follow federal law, under which marijuana remains illegal.

According to an AP News report, an Arizona college student was pulled out of her class and expelled last month for testing positive for marijuana.

Sheida Assar told AP News that she obtained a legal medical marijuana card to treat chronic pain due to polycystic ovary syndrome. Assar, 31, was studying diagnostic medical sonography at GateWay Community College in Phoenix when she violated the school’s drug policy.

“They yanked me out of class in the middle of the school day,” Assar told AP News. “They escorted me to the administration like I was a … criminal. It’s discrimination, and it also violates my rights under the Arizona medical marijuana law.”

According to the report, Assar intends to sue GateWay to recover tuition costs and other educational expenses totaling $2,000, plus more money in damages.

Across the country a similar story played out last month in Connecticut. Nursing student Kathryn Magner sued Sacred Heart University in Fairfield after being barred from attending the required medical rounds due to a positive marijuana test result.

Magner, 22, began using cannabis legally in her home state of Massachusetts to treat undisclosed conditions before returning to school. A Connecticut judge ordered Magner to be allowed to return to the medical rounds citing Connecticut state law, which allows medical marijuana and forbids colleges from discriminating against students who use it.

A Florida student is suing her university after she was ejected last year from the school’s nursing program. Kaitlin McKeon obtained a state medical marijuana card for several conditions including chronic stomach pain.

“I don’t think people really realize how people who use marijuana for medical purposes really get discriminated against,” McKeon told Miami New Times. “There’s a very big stigma against it.”

A star swimmer, McKeon had been recruited to swim for Nova Southeastern University, but due to health problems was not able to attend at the time. When she was able to attend, school officials told McKeon she would not face disciplinary action because of Florida’s medical marijuana laws.

However, that turned out to not be the case when higher-ranking officials moved to expel McKeon for violating the school’s drug policy after she failed a drug test in Jan. 2018.

“Right away, I felt embarrassed, like I did something wrong,” McKeon said. “Because that’s kind of how they made me feel.”

Cannabis Laws and News

To date, 33 states plus the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana. Find out where medical marijuana is legal and other marijuana access laws are being considered by visiting our Where Is Marijuana Legal? page.

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