By Samantha Storms
Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor
Following an incident on Sunday, Oct. 29 in which Public Safety reportedly confiscated a stash of illegal marijuana from a campus residence hall, a Hofstra student licensed with a New York medical marijuana card has suffered 12 seizures to date, including a tonic-clonic seizure that left the student hospitalized.
After a report made to Public Safety by another resident on the student’s floor, officers searched his single room and removed the illegal marijuana from the residence hall. The events that followed prompted the student’s family to urge Hofstra administration to address the lack of policy in place for working with student medical marijuana card holder, an issue that the student says poses a major threat to his education and, most importantly, his health.
“I have generalized epilepsy which involves my entire brain, not just one section,” the student explained in an email. “Apparently I’ve had it for years, and I didn’t know because I always smoked. When I stopped smoking is when I had my [first] grand mal seizure (now referred to as a tonic-clonic seizure).”
According to the New York State Department of Health, only certain forms of marijuana are legal under the New York State Medical Marijuana Program, including “liquids and oil for vaporization or administration via inhaler as well as capsules to take orally.” However, the law prohibits smoking marijuana, as well as marijuana taken in the form of edibles.
The student spoke to The Chronicle on the condition of anonymity to discuss usage of drug paraphernalia.
Since October, when his illegal substances were confiscated, the student has had to stash his marijuana with a friend at an off-campus location where he travels on foot during the evening to take his dosages.
“I’m supposed to take doses every three hours, but I can’t do that anymore,” the student said. “I take doses once a day now, and I can only take them at night after walking right through Hempstead.”
After the incident, the student met with Associate Director of Public Safety Robert McDonald on Oct. 30, leading to a conversation the student says left him disappointed in the department’s ability to both listen to and communicate with students in order to ensure their health and safety. McDonald has declined to comment, citing restrictions made by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
The student claimed that in this meeting, McDonald questioned the student’s use of an illegal form of marijuana, dry herb, to medicate. The student then explained the complications of the situation – that the dispensary was over an hour away and no transportation from either the university or the state medical marijuana program was being offered.
“I explained all this to him – that I need it and that it controls my seizures,” the student said. “He basically didn’t care, wrote me my violation and just sent me away.”
Following this meeting, the student had to meet with the Resident Director of Constitution and Vander Poel Hall Samuel Baah. The conversation that ensued prompted the student’s parents to get involved, who are currently pursuing Hofstra administration to address what they believe to be unacceptable staff behavior.
The student alleged that after an attempt to record the conversation with Baah, the resident director attempted to confiscate the recording cell phone and demanded the audio file be deleted. The Chronicle reached out to Baah who declined to comment.
“I had the meeting with my RD, and he basically told me you’re not allowed any marijuana products on campus, even if it’s medicine – I explained everything to him, that I need it to survive, and he still said no,” the student said. “He basically told me that if I do not take responsibility, I will just receive more punishment than I already have.”
In the early morning of Nov. 16, on a stone round table outside of a residence hall, the student suffered from the first tonic-clonic seizure since Public Safety confiscated the illegal substance in October. The student sustained minor injuries from collapsing on concrete, including a gash in the hand that required a tetanus shot and bruises from his head colliding with the pavement. The student claims that the seizure was a direct consequence of having limited access to the required three daily dosages.
The student explained that before these incidents occurred, his mother contacted the university to explain her child’s disorder, asking that the appropriate administrators review New York laws to determine whether or not the student could continue with the medical marijuana program. According to the student, no one from the university contacted her again.
The student, a long-time marijuana user, says his frustrating experience in dealing with the disorder while away at college has had a monumental impact on him, not just in terms of health, but also academics. The student urges higher administration to include new policy that addresses student holders of New York medical marijuana cards to ensure and protect their academic success and health.
“This all has significantly affected school for me. I used to get perfect, really great grades in very hard classes,” the student said. “If I did not have epilepsy I would have been getting A’s in organic chemistry. I used to be so incredibly smart before this whole thing happened.”
Upon several attempts to obtain a quote on behalf of the administration, university officials declined to comment citing FERPA and HIPPA legalities, and did not respond to emails or phone calls. The Chronicle pursued contacts from University Relations, the Department of Student Affairs, Public Safety, the Student Health and Counseling Center and the Department of Residence Life, all of which have neither denied nor confirmed that the incident in question had occurred. However, The Chronicle previously reported in its Nov. 7 issue that a Public Safety officer responded to Vander Poel Hall and confiscated marijuana from a student’s room who was issued a referral that required the student appear before the Office of Community Standards. Public Safety indicated that this infraction took place on Oct. 29 at 11:20 p.m., the same date and time this student refers to in his conversation with The Chronicle. The student presented The Chronicle with his hospital discharge papers from his hospitalization due to the tonic-clonic seizure, the citation issued by Public Safety after his marijuana was confiscated and his New York State medical marijuana dispensary card.