Story by Sabra Jackson, Staff writer
Although smoking marijuana is illegal in the state of Kentucky, nine cases of marijuana use or possession have been reported on campus this semester.
Murray State’s Police Department Chief of Police, James Herring, said reports of marijuana is not unusual for the university.
“Most of the students we find with drugs and paraphernalia only have a small amount, so we refer them through the student conduct process rather than pursue criminal charges,” Herring said.
Mike Young, associate vice president of student affairs, said the university follows Kentucky law when it comes to drugs.
“Students need to understand that you are still violating the law, whether it is legal in the state they live in or not,” Young said.
Consequences vary by the case and how it is cited in court. Young said there is a mandatory court fine for the possession of marijuana.
Young said Murray State police confiscate any drugs and place the student under disciplinary probation until the case is decided. During the probation, the student is to complete a marijuana e-Checkup.
“Everything that is submitted through housing and public safety is seen through [public affairs],” Young said.
Students may be cited to the city court if the Murray State police deem it necessary, otherwise they may be referred to other student conduct action following the situation.
These other disciplinary actions may include removal of paraphernalia, paying a fine or completing the e-Checkup.
“Marijuana use is illegal in the state of Kentucky, so obviously you can’t have it on campus or even in the campus community where we have jurisdiction over,” Young said.
Bryan Ernstberger, Calloway County Attorney, is responsible for prosecuting misdemeanor offenses and violations, which include marijuana possession and charges. He said once law enforcement charges someone for marijuana, they are cited to a court date.
“Marijuana and possession of marijuana carries up to 45 days in a county jail and up to a 250 dollar fine,” Ernstberger said. “Those are the national punishment.”
Ernstberger said it is typically to see marijuana charges coupled with drug paraphernalia charges, which is a class A misdemeanor.
At the first court date, Ernstberger’s office is asked to make a recommendation on the sentence on the plea of guilty.
“I’ve changed things up since I took office three years ago,” Ernstberger said. “I began offering for first time possession of marijuana 45 days but conditionally discharged for a period of two years.”
This means that the person does not spend the time in jail unless they get another offense or violate their conditions. Ernstberger still charges a $250 fine.
“In dealing with college students, I try to be cognisant of their criminal records,” Ernstberger said.
The Attorney’s office has a substantial number of these charges, Ernstberger said. The office tries to merge the charge with a paraphernalia charge in order to get a better sentence.
If the person charged takes classes provided, the conviction may get voided off their personal record if they are willing to cooperate.
These statutes that allow the conviction to be voided off of the personal record may be found at KRS 218A.275 and KRS 218A.276 of the Kentucky Legislature homepage.