The approval of Proposition 64 brought concerns to Pierce College faculty and administration regarding the legal use of recreational marijuana in the two designated smoking areas of an otherwise smoke-free campus.
Proposition 64, which makes smoking, buying and growing recreational marijuana legal in California, was approved by 56.85 percent of voters, according to Ballotpedia.
“Proposition 64 shouldn’t affect Pierce College at all,” said Director of the Pierce College Health Center Beth Benne. “We are federally funded so marijuana is still illegal to smoke on campus in the smoking areas. All the colleges in our nine-campus district are federally funded. It’s very black and white.”
According to Benne, the campus sheriff approached them with questions about how they wanted the situation handled. Pierce faculty and administration were concerned that students would mistakenly think that smoking marijuana on campus is permitted.
“Pierce College receives federal money which means we follow federal law,” said Deputy Al Guerrero. “Under federal law, marijuana is still outlawed.”
According to Dean of Student Engagement Juan Carlos Astorga, students have already started to ask whether they can use the designated smoking areas on campus to smoke marijuana.
“I’ve had to tell them, ‘I’m really happy for you that you’re happy that this passed, but unfortunately you won’t be allowed to smoke marijuana on campus,” Astorga said. “‘You would still be found to be in violation of the student code of conduct for the use of drugs.’”
According to Proposition 64, it will still be illegal to smoke marijuana in public and near school zones, while operating vehicles and machinery, and wherever the smoking of tobacco is prohibited.
Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill in September that would have banned all smoking in California state and community colleges. Brown said the bill was unnecessary as college campuses could set their own smoking policies.
“We have tobacco regulation on campus and we are [against] any type of smoking or vaping or e-cigs,” Benne said. “It is a health hazard. I don’t care what you’re smoking. We will continue with the efforts we’ve been doing with the tobacco cessation program.”
Pierce College’s Smoke and Tobacco-Free College Regulation states that any type of smoking is prohibited indoor and outdoor on Pierce property except for the two designated areas, Parking Lot 1 and Parking Lot 7.
“They are not necessarily enforced,” Benne said. “They wanted somewhere away from the overpopulated areas of the campus and classrooms, but many of the faculty have complained about people smoking by the windows right outside the classrooms and it affecting people with health conditions.”
Benne said that even with designated areas, students still smoke where they are not supposed to, but in some cases it’s not for a lack of trying.
“Most people smoke in the faculty section of [Parking Lot 1] because it has the shades, and that’s illegal,” Benne said. “The second area, which I have never seen anyone walk to way out there to smoke a cigarette, is Parking Lot 7 along Victory. Bless them if they do, but I don’t know anybody who does. I feel silly telling people that’s where the other smoking area is.”
Benne’s goal is to have the campus be 100 percent smoke-free.
“It was a huge defeat for myself and many of my peers throughout the state when that bill was not signed by Gov. Brown,” Benne said. “I’m a health provider, and it’s a foreign substance that you’re putting in your body and it alters your metabolism and brain function. I’m anti all of that.”