Calls to legalize medicinal cannabis

Hamline allows cannabis to be used for medicinal purposes on campus.

Audra Grigus, Reporter

Marijuana is considered a Schedule 1 substance at both the federal and state level, meaning that it is currently not accepted for medical use and has a high potential for abuse. Despite this, Minnesota allows cannabis to be used for medical reasons; and, if certification is properly obtained through the state, Hamline allows its students to utilize cannabis as a form of medication.

Taylor Johnson, whose name has been changed due to wishing to remain anonymous, is a Hamline student who has obtained their medical cannabis certification from the state and is now allowed to use medical cannabis on campus. The tedious process of receiving the medical cannabis card has driven this student to cultivate Hamline into a community that is more tolerant of all forms of medicinal cannabis usage. Johnson has helped make significant changes in the way campus administration and Hamline Public Safety view the substance.

“[Public safety] will not take away your medical cannabis medication and not chastise you in any way, you just have to show them your medical cannabis card,” Johnson said. “Which is a really big breakthrough. But they can never have an official policy about it.”

An official policy could have negative effects for the university.

“If the school permits students to use Schedule 1 substances, the school risks its entire federal financial aid funding,” said senior Gunnar Aas, President and Founder of Hamline University Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP). “I think that’s why they’ve been so quiet about it.”

Some students want the school to take an official stance on the matter.

“As an institution that receives federal funding we are not going to take an official stance in approving use because use of marijuana is still illegal under federal law,” said Hussein Rajput, Director of Counseling and Health Services.

Rajput is waiting on more empirical data to come out on medical cannabis and will not be recommending it to patients.

“[I am not] quite confident that it is well established as a treatment that’s as good or better than the other ones that are out there,” Rajput said. “We’re in pretty new territory, in respect to this, and I think there’s going to be a lot more research that comes out, in terms of establishing where it can be really useful for patients and where it may end up being, in some cases, superior to other traditional forms of treatment.”

Aas and Johnson feel as though there is a misunderstanding of what medical cannabis is and how it is used.

“I’m not smoking a joint on campus, that’s not what I’m doing,” Johnson said. “I’m literally taking medication just like anyone else.”

Medical cannabis comes in a variety of forms.

“You can get either the vape pens, the oils or the pills,” Aas said.

For Johnson, taking pills has always been difficult and finds vape pens to be the best option for them.

“The vape pen gives a more instant effect, that way I can go back to class right away,” Johnson said, who sometimes feels anxious in their classes and needs a quick way to relax.

Cannabis is made up of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Johnson has two separate vape pens, one for CBD and one that has both chemicals. CBD is what Johnson tends to use the most, as it acts as a relaxant.

“The CBD oil in cannabis is without the getting-high factor,” Johnson said. “The THC is the element that gets you high.”

In order to be approved by the state to obtain these substances, there is a long and tedious process that patients must go through.

“You have to find a health provider who will actually prescribe it,” Johnson said. “That’s where the challenge is. There’s not many doctors out there who will prescribe to you or don’t support medical cannabis. I have to go all the way to Burnsville.”

Once prescribed by a doctor, there are two medical cannabis dispensaries in the state of Minnesota which people can utilize; Minnesota Medical Solutions and LeafLine Labs Hibbing.

But medical cannabis comes with a high price which has proven difficult for most college students to pay. The registration fee to receive medical cannabis certification and yearly renewals does not include all of the equipment and substances necessary.

“There are a lot of people who recreationally use cannabis for medicinal purposes, and I think that’s totally valid,” Aas said, “Especially because of how expensive it is to get it legally in Minnesota. We’re priced three to four times more than what other states charge for their products.”

In Minnesota, patients have to pay the $250 certification fee and $200 each year for renewal, and insurance often does not cover doctor’s visits. These fees alone are holding people back from considering medical cannabis as a form of medication.

“I don’t think that we’ve hit the peak of usage yet; I think that it will continue to grow and more people will begin to utilize it,” Rajput said.

Johnson has found an improved quality of life through medical cannabis and hopes that others will find success in this process as well.

“Don’t give up the first time you can’t find a doctor, ask a lot of questions to people who are trained to answer,” Johnson said. “I highly recommend Sensible Minnesota and SSDP, because they’ve been really helpful in answering my questions about it. Also, know your rights.”

Aas and Johnson have both been avidly trying to find a place for medical cannabis on Hamline’s campus and hope to one day see an acceptance of the medical treatment.

“I think medicinal cannabis should be treated like any pharmaceutical,” Aas said.