By Lisa Brown

Legalized Marijuana: What You Need to Know

December 15th, 2016 in Featured

Public use, smoking under age 21 still illegal

Growing marijuana is the only way to legally obtain it in Massachusetts until retailers, which must be licensed by the commonwealth, are allowed to open in 2018 under the just-passed law. Photo by Flickr Contributor Katheirne Hitt

Growing marijuana is the only way to legally obtain it in Massachusetts until retailers, which must be licensed by the commonwealth, are allowed to open in 2018 under the just-passed law. Photo by Flickr Contributor Katheirne Hitt

The legalization in Massachusetts of recreational marijuana use, starting December 15, doesn’t mean that every Terrier will now be able to light up. And for those who can, smoking pot on campus, including in dorms rooms, will still be illegal.

While the ballot initiative passed by voters last month allows legal use for those 21 and older, it continues the ban on public pot smoking. Because colleges receive federal money and are bound by federal law, which still prohibits marijuana possession and use, using the drug on campuses remains forbidden for both students and nonstudents.

“The enforcement policy will continue for those under 21 and for smoking in public,” says Scott Paré, acting chief of the BU Police Department. “The use, possession, distribution, or cultivation of marijuana for recreational or medical purposes is not allowed in any Boston University residence hall or on any other Boston University premises. Nor is it allowed at any University-sponsored event or activity off campus or at any student organization event or activity.”

Violators may face “civil citation, state or federal prosecution, and University discipline,” Paré adds.

Adults who can use legally, off campus, under the law are limited to possessing one ounce of dried pot or 5 grams of concentrated substance on their person, with another 9 ounces permitted in their primary residence, for a total of 10 ounces permissible at home. Adults can grow up to 6 plants individually, or 12 plants per household when more than one adult lives in the home. Massachusetts law also prohibits driving under the influence of marijuana.

The law will create a “legal gray zone,” in the Boston Globe’s words: while possession, purchase, and use will be legal as of December 15, retail stores selling pot cannot open until January 1, 2018. Nor can you bring marijuana in from other states, including the five states besides Massachusetts that have legalized recreational pot, says Seth Blumenthal, a BU Writing Program lecturer who teaches courses on marijuana law and endorsed the ballot initiative.

Bottom line for adults off campus: “Growing is the only legal way to get it when the law goes into effect,” says Blumenthal (GRS’13). “There are several regulations to growing: how much, where, and what you can do with it after, so that is something people should look at very carefully first.”

On the other hand, the law may affect fewer Terriers than many people think.

“There is a misperception on campus that marijuana use is common among BU students,” says Katharine Mooney (SPH’12), director of Student Health Services (SHS) Wellness & Prevention. In fact, a recent randomized survey revealed that 82 percent of students either have never used marijuana or hadn’t used it in the previous month, she says.

According to BUPD statistics, 61 students have received civil citations for marijuana use in the last three years.

Because federal law still makes marijuana illegal, “traveling out of the state with pot could bring in federal prosecution” for users, “especially on airplanes,” Blumenthal says. “The federal government has cracked down on some rogue dispensaries or growing operations, but nothing much on the user level. I would also point out possible implications of pot use for some international students and their federal status.”

Legalities aside, there are health reasons to dissuade younger people from pot. “Research has consistently shown that brain development of marijuana users who start young is different from those who start after the brain is fully developed”—around the age of 25, says Leah Barison, an SHS wellness counselor. Adolescent brains are “uniquely sensitive” to pot’s effects, Barison says, particularly in the hippocampus, which controls memory, the cerebellum (regulating coordination and muscle control), the basal ganglia (learning and motor skills), the amygdala (emotions), and the cerebral cortex (thinking).

“In the short term,” she says, “effects on these brain areas can impact memory, judgment, perception, and coordination, which, for our students, may mean impaired learning, lower sports performance, and impaired judgment, leading to altered decision-making.” Long-term consequences could be “poor attention, reduced processing speed, reduced memory, and lower IQ.”

This BU Today story was written by Rich Barlow. He can be reached at

New Degree Program Focuses on Health Sciences Education

December 8th, 2016 in Featured

Jeffrey Markuns, MD, EdM

Jeffrey Markuns

This October, a new program – the Master’s of Science in Health Sciences Education (MSHSE) – was unanimously approved by BU School of Medicine, the University Council Committee on Graduate Programs and Policies and the University Council. The program is offered through the Division of Graduate Medical Sciences (GMS), in collaboration with the School of Education (SED); Jeffrey Markuns, MD, EdM, assistant professor of Family Medicine serves as Program Director. Recruitment is underway for the inaugural class, who will matriculate in fall 2017. For more information, go to

The program offers those with degrees in nursing, medicine and other health-related areas an opportunity to pursue graduate studies in medical education. The MSHSE provides training in the principles of education and teaching that are applicable and adaptable to a specific health sciences discipline. It is designed to improve teaching skills and other aspects of health sciences education to help students advance their careers.

“This program will educate and train faculty from all the health professional fields who are committed to establishing themselves as master educators,” said Markuns. “The broad range of required courses along with a mentored practicum will produce world-class faculty in health sciences education.”

A certificate option is available for those with limited time and resources or who already have a strong background in general education, as well as the part- and full-time options to pursue the Master’s degree The certificate and Master’s degree options are available for the tuition remission benefit for eligible BU faculty and staff The program is expected to be initiated on campus in the classroom, but then students will be able to pursue a schedule that allows for part-time participation. Practicum based, it is designed for students to apply new skills from their studies directly to issues they already are seeking to tackle in their daily work.

The MSHSE provides numerous benefits to the University:

  • It provides an opportunity for those faculty interested in developing additional skills in teaching and education to pursue an advanced degree directly relevant to their daily work using BU tuition remission.
  • The program raises the profile of educational faculty throughout BU and creates new partnerships with educators from throughout the institution.
  • With an eye towards additional distance-learning options, the MSHSE offers faculty development mechanisms for internationalteachers in the health sciences from institutions around the world.


The Certificate and Master’s in Health Sciences Education are offered through the Division of Graduate Medical Sciences (GMS), in collaboration with the School of Education (SED), plus electives offered in the Schools of Medicine and Public Health

  • Strong focus on practical skills application
  • Core courses emphasizing curriculum development, research, evaluation, and teaching
  • Robust practicum experience personalized for specific career goals
  • Support and mentorship

Study Finds that School Shootings Less Likely in States with Background Checks

December 7th, 2016 in Featured

In a bid to address gun violence, researchers from Boston University Schools of Medicine and Public Health and Columbia School of Law drew analysis of media coverage of school shootings between 2013 and 2015 to see if the frequency of these events could be linked to state-level factors.

The study, led by Assistant Professor of Medicine Bindu Kalesan, PhD, MPH, found that school shootings are less likely in U.S. states with mandatory background checks on gun and ammunition purchases and with higher levels of spending on mental health services and public education.

Although this was an observation study without information on the perpetrators’ mental health, Kalesan notes “Our results may have a direct implication for public health approach to gun violence prevention and emphasizes the need for a national surveillance registry of mass shootings and school shootings with retrospective and prospective information to be a priority to better inform studies that consider the drivers and consequences of school shootings.”

Incidents of school shootings between 2013 and 2015

Incidents of school
shootings between 2013 and 2015

Read the full study here.

Nov. 1 Employee Wellness Fair

October 27th, 2016 in Announcements, Featured

Learn More and Schedule a Screening
COM Wellness 2016

Commuting Survey: Help TranSComm Improve Services

October 27th, 2016 in Featured

Take the 2016 DEP Survey Oct. 31-Nov. 4! Access it at

COM transportation_pattern2The Commonwealth of Massachusetts requires this information on the commuting practices of faculty, staff, and students under the Massachusetts Ridesharing Regulation and the Federal Clean Air Act Amendments. As part of this online, anonymous, five-minute survey you indicate how you traveled to work during a specific time period.

As an added incentive, after completing this survey you may enter a drawing to win raffle prizes such as a $200 Amazon gift card! Increase your chances of winning and fill out the survey on Monday, Oct. 31 and you be entered in the daily raffle for the rest of the week!

Your participation is extremely important because the DEP requires a response rate of at least 90 percent.

The anonymous results will be reported to DEP, but more importantly they will be used by TranSComm, the BUMC transportation services office, to further improve transportation services to the Medical Campus.

TranSComm appreciates your help and thanks you for your participation with this important compliance activity for the Medical Campus. If you have any questions regarding the survey please contact TranSComm at 617-638-7473.

Save the Date Jan. 9, Provost Workshop: Smoking Cessation

October 24th, 2016 in Featured, Research

COM No_Smoking_full

Oct. 10 Columbus Day Parking and Transportation Information

October 4th, 2016 in Featured

Columbus Day will be observed on Monday, Oct. 10, please note:

All medical center and patient shuttles will be operating, except the BU shuttle, the daytime shuttle is not in service on Columbus Day, but the late night shuttle will operate according to the normal schedule.

All buses will be operating on a Weekday schedule· Commuter rail trains will operate on regular weekday schedules. For additional information on routes, schedules, and fares, please call the MBTA Customer Service Center at (617) 222-3200 or

All parking facilities will be open and regular rates apply. Monthly parkers should park in their assigned lot.

If you have any questions regarding this holiday schedule, please call the Office of Transportation Services at 638-7473 or the Parking Office at 638-4915.

Planning for an Emergency

September 29th, 2016 in Announcements, Featured

A new academic year has begun, and with it new students, as well as faculty and staff on campus. In an emergency, everyone needs to be aware of basic emergency initial responses and actions to take, and whom to notify.

Please visit the Managing Emergencies training module on the Environmental Health & Safety website and take this interactive training course to ensure you’re prepared in an emergency. Questions? Contact Aron Vinson at or 617-638-8807 or Steve Morash at or 617-358-1577.

Please view these short videos to ensure you’re prepared in an emergency.

Public Safety is the responsibility of all members of our BUMC community. If you see something, say something. Please report any Medical Campus suspicious activity or behavior to Public Safety at 4-4444.

Campus-wide Resource for Postdocs Professional Development and Postdoctoral Affairs Celebrates First Year

September 29th, 2016 in Featured

The Professional Development & Postdoctoral Affairs Office (PDPA) recently celebrated its first full year of operations. During the 2016 fiscal year the office advised 116 postdoctoral fellows, responded to postdoctoral skill needs by offering ten in-person and three online professional development opportunities attended by 175 BU postdocs and 71 BU graduate students, awarded seven travel awards to support postdoctoral presentations at national and international conferences, supported postdoc networking by supplying 67 postdocs with business cards, actively participated in three University committees focused on the development of new policies and guidelines, and applied for four sponsored awards to fund new collaborative professional development programs.

With the goal of providing a supportive and competitive environment for postdoctoral fellows, PDPA offers professional development opportunities and advising services to postdocs and their faculty mentors. Upcoming events include a “Managing Research Staff” bootcamp for faculty members, and a “Writing a Teaching Philosophy Statement” workshop for postdoctoral fellows and graduate students. To learn about and RSVP for upcoming professional development events, please visit the PDPA website.

PDPA is led by Director Sarah Hokanson, 617-358-2111 and in August Administrative Manager Kate Baker, 617-638-5229 joined the Office.

Sarah Hokanson

Sarah Hokanson

Kate Baker

Kate Baker

Hokanson oversees all services and programming PDPA provides for postdoctoral scholars at the University, as well as supporting the development of policies related to postdoctoral scholarship. Baker oversees the administrative infrastructure necessary to support postdoctoral fellows and manages day-to-day operations, including coordinating orientation sessions for incoming postdocs and synchronizing communications.

PDPA is housed in the Office of the Vice President and Associate Provost for Research on the Charles River Campus, and the Division of Graduate Medical Sciences on the Medical Campus. Baker and Hokanson can be reached on either campus by

Medical Campus Flu Vaccination Clinics for Employees

September 28th, 2016 in Featured

The Occupational Health Center will be offering influenza (flu) vaccine at no cost to BU employees. Employees are encouraged to get the vaccine during one of the scheduled clinics to not only protect yourself, but also your colleagues and your family. For information regarding the 2016-2017 flu vaccine please refer to the Occupational Health Center’s website at If you have any questions regarding the vaccine or clinic schedule, please email

Please note:
· To enable easier administration of the vaccine please wear a short sleeve shirt.
· Additional clinics will be held as needed.
· MA DPH recommends that all health care providers receive the influenza vaccine unless contraindicated

Please walk-in during the dates and times listed below that correspond with the first initial of your last name. If you are unable to come on your designated date, you may walk-in during one of the other scheduled clinics. Please note there will be clinics held on both the Medical and Charles River Campus.

Medical Campus
Location: Medical Campus Human Resources, Crosstown Building, 801 Mass. Ave., Suite 400

First Initial of Last Name: A – M
Tuesday, Oct. 18, 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

First Initial of Last Name: N – Z
Friday, Oct. 21, 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

· History of severe reaction to influenza vaccination
· Moderate-to-severe illness
· History of Guillain-Barre syndrome
· Allergy to neomycin/polymyxin