Students, faculty and visitors to the state's three universities are going to have to go without their medical marijuana even though it's legal under state law.
Policies adopted or being crafted by the schools say their campuses will remain drug-free zones. Officials said their obligations under federal law trump Arizona statutes.
Proposition 203, approved in November, allows those who have a specific recommendation from a doctor to legally obtain 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana every two weeks from state-regulated dispensaries.
But Glenn George, the general counsel for the University of Arizona, pointed out in a memo that two separate federal laws say that college and universities must adopt and implement "a program to prevent the use of illicit drugs and abuse of alcohol by students and employees."
She said that, Arizona law notwithstanding, federal law prohibits possession and use of marijuana, even for medical purposes. And the penalty for schools that don't enforce that, George said, is loss of any federal aid, including student participation in the guaranteed student loan program.
Tom Bauer, spokesman for Northern Arizona University, said his school is in the process of adopting similar restrictions, right down to residence halls.
Bauer said federal laws do allow students with legitimate prescriptions to have those medications, even drugs that could be seen as potentially more dangerous. He said, though, the difference is that drugs like OxyContin are legal for those with a prescription under federal law; marijuana is not.
He said that, from the perspective of university officials, there are no options.
"We would stand to lose millions of dollars, both in financial aid and research grants," Bauer said.
Arizona State University spokesman Virgil Renzulli said his school is subject to the same federal policies about drug-free campuses as the other schools.