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Ohio State University will continue to prohibit marijuana use on campus following legalization

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The Ohio State University has issued official guidelines around marijuana use after voters supported an amendment to legalize its recreational use.

The Ohio State University will continue prohibiting the use or possession of marijuana on campus after voters in Ohio voted to legalize recreational weed.

Ohio's flagship university clarified its policy ahead of the statute going into effect on Thursday at midnight and as the Ohio Legislature mulls over further changes to the amendment, which passed with just over 57% of the vote in November.

OSU said it will continue to restrict marijuana use and possession on campus property when people in Ohio aged 21 and older will be allowed to smoke weed recreationally.

OSU Spokesperson Ben Johnson told WOSU that OSUPD will not charge people over 21 with crimes for possessing marijuana if the use is legal under the new law, but all students that are found to be possessing marijuana on campus may be referred to Student Conduct in the Office of Student Life.

Johnson reiterated that OSUPD will enforce the law as written and that the new law doesn't permit smoking marijuana in public, and possession and use of marijuana – even if obtained legally under Ohio law – is prohibited.

Johnson also said the university's policies for employees using marijuana is unchanged. According to the policy, employees are prohibited from using controlled substances, including marijuana, at work or in university-owned vehicles on or off campus.

Some employees are also subject to drug and alcohol testing pre-employment depending on if they are in a safety-related position or another designated position. The university also conducts random testing on safety-related positions and other designated positions.

OSU argued in a news release that because federal law still restricts marijuana usage and the university receives federal funds, they are required to prohibit possession and usage inside campus buildings and even outdoors on any campus property the university owns, operates or leases. These areas include residence halls and other university housing facilities, offices and university-managed properties.

The university also cited the federal Drug Free Schools and Communities Act passed by Congress in 1989, which specifically prohibits possession, use or distribution of marijuana in relation to any university activity, including research.

OSU said it will continue to evaluate policies and monitor proposed legislative changes as the Ohio House and Ohio Senate mull over separate proposals to tweak the law. The university said any changes will be communicated with the campus community.

George Shillcock is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. He joined the WOSU newsroom in April 2023 following three years as a reporter in Iowa with the USA Today Network.