Marijuana-growing advice: Colorado State University master gardeners forbidden from offering it

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"Ask an expert," urges a link on the Colorado State University page touting the Colorado Master Gardener program offered by Colorado State University on an extension basis.

But not if that question is about marijuana.

According to CSU spokesman Brad Bohlander, program reps have been receiving queries about marijuana-growing of late -- enough to prompt a request for direction from university lawyers. Their firm recommendation, on view below? Don't give any advice about how to grow pot, even to those who are approved to do so for medical purposes by the state of Colorado.

Bohlander isn't surprised that such inquiries came the way of CSU personnel.

"We're a land-grant university with 54 extension offices throughout the state of Colorado," he says. "And at many of those offices, we offer a variety of services: horticulture experts, plant specialists, and a master-gardener program. It's a volunteer program, a project where people can participate in some in-depth course work, and they get a master-gardener certification. Anybody can apply and get into that program, and those folks will often do things volunteer-wise on behalf of the university."

Lately, of course, marijuana is increasingly seen as a legitimate cash crop. As a result, Bohlander says, "a number of individuals have come into multiple offices over the past several months -- primarily people who have licenses to grow medical marijuana. They've brought plants into extension offices or asked for advice about growing marijuana.

"That caused a lot of questions and confusion with our agents," he continues. "Some of them were very uncomfortable with it, and some wondered if we had a legal obligation to provide the information. So Extension asked CSU's legal counsel for guidance."

The attorneys opted to look at marijuana from the perspective of U.S. drug laws, as opposed to the ones in Colorado about medical marijuana.

"Possession of marijuana is still illegal at the federal level -- and that really was the bottom line of their determination," Bohlander says. "Given that fact, they have told Extention that, essentially, it's not appropriate for CSU to be providing advice to marijuana growers."

This decision doesn't have the weight of a formally adopted university policy. Nonetheless, Bohlander says leaders of the Extension program "are happy to have some guidance." He expects that some in the program will agree with the ruling, while others won't. But at least they know where CSU stands.

That choice will no doubt please the folks at the plethora of marijuana universities that have popped up lately. Look below to read a CSU synopsis of the counsel's legal rationale:

Medical Marijuana and CSU Cooperative Extension

The General Counsel's staff at Colorado State University has informed CSU Extension of the following in regards to Medical Marijuana. These restrictions apply to all Colorado State University Extension staff members to include Master Gardener volunteers.

1. While the use of Medical Marijuana is legal in the state of Colorado, Marijuana remains a schedule 1 illegal drug under Federal law and as such, Colorado State University Extension cannot be involved with this item.

a. Assistance with medical Marijuana plant health questions will not be provided.

b. Individuals requesting such information will not be provided referral information.

2. Our offices are considered drug free workplaces as CSU is a Federal contractor.

a. Marijuana plants and/or plant parts are not permitted in CSU Extension offices.

b. Marijuana plants or plant parts delivered to or left at CSU Extension offices will be turned over to legal authorities for destruction.

3. If CSU Extension employees or volunteers (including Master Gardeners) assist medical marijuana growers, they will be acting outside the scope of their employee/volunteer role and assume personal liability for any legal action that may be taken against them.

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