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Drugs and Alcohol

Reefer Madness: Decriminalization & Student Conduct Codes

By March 10, 2014September 25th, 2023No Comments

The DC City Council’s efforts to decriminalize marijuana opens a Pandora’s box for schools and universities who will need to reconcile their student conduct codes. [1] Or not.

So which college or university will pioneer the de-sanctioning of marijuana use on their campus and instantly assume the mantle of “Stoner U”?  Answer:  None of them.

Decriminalization will affect the extremely narrow group of students who otherwise might have been arrested and charged with marijuana possession.  Those students will have the comfort of knowing that they will not have a criminal record and will not face the threat of jail.

It won’t give a free pass for running afoul of school substance abuse codes.

It won’t void federal criminal laws prohibiting interstate transport of drugs.  By the way, how many students know students who buy their marijuana at home and then bring it back to school thereby breaking federal law?

It won’t eliminate the dangers of purchasing marijuana on the streets –like robbery, assault, and weed cut with unknown agents.

It won’t eliminate the civil record that employers may consider in whether to hire a student and it certainly won’t eliminate the fact that security clearances regularly consider whether an applicant uses marijuana.

Today criminal and school sanctions for marijuana expose students to a complex set of threats to their present school status as well as their future careers.  Decriminalization does nothing to eliminate those risks.



Shan Wu

Author Shan Wu

Shan’s professional and personal background gives him a unique understanding of academic institutions and the criminal justice system. A former federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., he is at home in D.C. Courts and very familiar with all of the Washington, D.C. law enforcement agencies, especially the Metropolitan Police Department. His parents were university professors so he grew up in a university environment. He understands the mindset of academic institutions. As a prosecutor, he supervised in the misdemeanor crime section. This is the section of the Washington, D.C. prosecutor’s office that handles most college student cases. His understanding of charging decisions and how judges view these cases is invaluable to his student clients and their families. Shan served as a federal prosecutor in the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia for over ten years. During his tenure there, now Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. appointed him to supervisory positions in the Misdemeanor Trial Section and also in a police corruption task force. His outstanding legal work in the government was recognized through numerous Special Achievement Awards from the Justice Department as well as awards conveyed by law enforcement agencies and community groups. From 1999-2000, Shan served as Counsel to Attorney General Janet Reno, advising her on criminal and civil investigations, E-Gov, E-Commerce (electronic signatures, internet gambling, internet telephony, privacy & public access issues in electronic court filings), congressional oversight, and legislative review. His responsibilities included serving as liaison to the FBI, DEA, Criminal Division, Executive Office of United States Attorneys, National Institute of Justice, and White House Counsel’s Office. Shan serves on the D.C. Bar Association’s Hearing Committee of the Board on Professional Responsibility and is a past president of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association for the Greater Washington, D.C. area. He is a 1988 graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, where he graduated Order of the Barristers, edited two law reviews, and was Co-Director of the Moot Court Program. He holds a B.A. in English Literature from Vassar College as well as a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Following law school, he clerked for the late Hon. Jerry Buchmeyer, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, and the late Eugene Wright, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He is admitted to practice law in the District of Columbia and Connecticut.

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