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Politics & Government

Board of Higher Education can't -- and won't -- take a formal position on recreational marijuana

Dave Thompson
Prairie Public

The Board of Higher Education will not take a formal position on opposing the recreational marijuana initiative that is on the November ballot.

The measure was discussed by the Board’s Governance Committee. That committee asked University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott to draft a position paper. But board legal counsel said the Board could not take a formal position on the issue – because the Board is a part of state government. However, the board could discuss factual information on the measure without taking a formal position.

Board member Dan Traynor moved to table the discussion. The vote on that motion was 4-2, with two voting members absent. The two members were working on the contract for the new Valley City State University president. The motion was first declared "passed." But after the two board members returned, along with legal counsel, it was ruled that the motion to table needed 5 votes. Traynor again moved to table, but that failed on a 4-4 vote.

"Both at the governance committee and here at the Board, we did not invite proponents of the measure," Traynor said. "We only discussed opposition. That creates an unfairness."

After Traynor's motion failed, the Board heard from Katie Fitzsimmons, the director of student affairs for the University System. Fitzsimmons told the Board the campuses have to follow federal drug-free laws, because marijuana is still a schedule one drug.

Board president Don Morton said supporters could comment during the "public comment" portion of the meeting. No one did.

"Failure to comply with federal laws and federal regulations on marijuana possession and use on campuses jeopardizes the continued receipt of federal funds," Fitsimmons said.

But Fitzsimmons said current University System policies on marijuana and drugs on campuses would remain in place, and violations by students, faculty and staff could result in sanctions.

Individual board members are free to give personal opinions on the measure.

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