The University of Colorado risks losing nearly $1 billion a year in federal funding because of the looming decriminalization of marijuana in this state under Amendment 64, President Bruce Benson warned alumni in an e-mail sent late Friday night.
That message quickly drew a pointed response from U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Boulder, who took to Twitter to decry Benson's e-mail as "false and misleading" and claim that "the president of CU should not spread lies about the will of Colorado voters just because he personally disagrees."
In his e-mail, Benson, a Republican,
notes he personally opposed Amendment 64 and "worked on my own time to defeat it." Since the measure's passage by voters last month, Benson wrote, CU is trying to determine the implications it will have on the university.
"Marijuana threatens to cost the university nearly a billion dollars annually in federal revenue, money we can ill afford to lose," Benson wrote. "The glaring practical problem is that we stand to lose significant federal funding. CU must comply with the federal Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act, which compels us to ban illicit drugs from campus.
"Our campuses bring in more than $800 million in federal research funds, not to mention nearly an additional $100 million in funding for student financial aid. The loss of that funding would have substantial ripple effects on our students and our state. CU contributes $5.3 billion to Colorado's economy annually, a good portion of it derived from our research."
Polis, in string of tweets, called Benson's claims "FALSE," adding, "Nothing in Amend64 requires CU let marijuana on campus" and "CU has made great progress in improving its reputation but President Benson jeopardizes it by pushing his personal opposition to Amend 64."
Since the passage of Amendment 64 last month, CU officials have repeatedly said that marijuana use will remain prohibited on the Boulder campus. On an informational webpage about Colorado's impending legalization, CU officials note that the "passage of the law does not permit use of marijuana on university grounds, in university buildings, facilities, or public areas."
Benson, in his e-mail, concludes:
"We are not only within our rights to ban marijuana on our campuses, it is the right thing to do. Many insist the legalization votes in Colorado and Washington state are in part a referendum on the war on drugs, and the point is hard to argue. That is a discussion we should have as a society. However, in a tenuous funding environment, the possibility of losing nearly a billion dollars is a chance we simply cannot take. We have better things to focus on." ___