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People have long said that the most dangerous thing you can do with cannabis is get caught with it, and that saying is especially true for those who have aspirations of a college education. Although more states are moving to legalize cannabis for both medical and recreational purposes, the federal government continues to maintain its ridiculous policy of total prohibition.
As a result, the rules that prevent those convicted of a drug offense from obtaining federal student aid still impact the future countless bright young students. In addition to risking the loss of all federal student aid including grants, scholarships, and subsidized student loans due to a criminal record, students can also find themselves in trouble even if they avoid legal issues and comply with state law.
Sheida Assar started going to Gateway Community College in Phoenix, Arizona to work as a medical assistant. Specifically, she wanted to study diagnostic medical sonography. Assar has a medical marijuana recommendation that complies with Arizona law because of her painful medical condition. Her diagnosis is polycystic ovary syndrome, which causes a variety of symptoms including irregular menstruation, weight gain, irregular or excessive hair growth, hair loss, and oily skin.
While multiple people from the school told Assar that her medical cannabis use would be perfectly fine provided that she complied with state law and was able to produce a medical recommendation when necessary, that isn’t what ended up happening. Instead, she wasted thousands of dollars pursuing an educational dream that would be ripped from her hands.
As with all other students going into an area of medicine, 31-year-old Assar was subjected to a random drug screening. She obviously failed the test because of her cannabis use, which she says helps her sleep. She wasn’t worried about the test, as she had been told it would not be a problem. However, she was later pulled out of class in the middle of a lesson and effectively expelled from college shortly thereafter.
Colleges with these ridiculous and damaging policies attempt to defend their practices by claiming that permitting medical cannabis use or recreational cannabis use in compliance with state laws leaves them in violation of federal laws and therefore vulnerable to the loss of federal funding. Young Miss Assar has decided to sue the school for the financial fallout of their policy decision, including every cent she spent at the school. Students in other states in even more restrictive medical programs have settled similar lawsuits in recent years.
A win on her part could be quite important, as it could open the door to broader reform at the federal level, thereby helping countless students who depend on medical cannabis in compliance with state laws from risking an unnecessary detrimental impact on their education.