New York State is closer than ever to legalizing recreational marijuana, but that doesn’t mean UB students would be able to spark a joint on campus any time soon.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing to legalize the substance by the state budget deadline of April 1, but even if it is legalized, students are still subject to Campus Living rules, which don’t allow the possession or use of marijuana. UB’s smoke-free policy would also prohibit smoking weed openly on campus.
Brian Haggerty, senior associate director of Campus Life, said he doesn’t “anticipate the campus changing its smokefree policy” if recreational marijuana became legal. He said Campus Living would still participate in any “discussion that considers new laws that might impact campus policies.”
UPD Deputy Chief Joshua Sticht said UB has to observe federal government laws in order to maintain its standing with the Department of Education.
“We've got to comply with the restrictions in the Federal Drug Free Schools Act which states that at the federal level, marijuana is still a controlled substance,” Sticht said.
Sticht said the majority of marijuana complaints UPD receives are a result of students smoking indoors in academic buildings and dorms.
“Even if it's legal to possess and legal to use in a recreational manner, if you're smoking it in an academic building or dorm room, that's still a violation of policy,” Sticht said.
Sticht said that UPD will “probably not find out” if students consume pot brownies or edibles, but may be called if these students engage in “disruptive behavior.”
“I don't see the connection between kids that are stoned and fist fights. Maybe we might see other issues like kids passing out on buses,” Sticht said. “So we might not be involved at all in the initial call, or in the initial consumption, but we just have to deal with the aftermath.”
Sticht said the potential legalization of marijuana may result in some “initial excitement” that may lead to students “smoking all over the place.”
But Sticht said, in those instances, UPD will “educate students” about the difference in state laws and student conduct rules through referrals, warnings from officers and orientation sessions.
“We're [probably] going to address it through orientations and other places where we can tell people ‘Hey, this is what New York State law says, but these are also the Student Conduct rules, and here's how you keep yourself from getting in trouble,’” Sticht said.
Sticht said he is concerned with the potential increase in motor vehicle accidents on campus as a result of marijuana consumption.
“I mean, we've seen that in states where it has been legalized, like Colorado and some other areas, there has been a marked increase in motor vehicle fatalities [and] accidents that appear to be tied back to marijuana,” Sticht said. “I'm not predicting that that will be a huge problem, but there's a potential there.”
Students like Sarah Scalise, a senior speech and hearing major, welcome the possibility of legalizing recreational marijuana.
Scalise said she hopes legalizing marijuana would ensure students are purcharsing “safer” pot, as opposed to marijuana purchased illegally that might be laced with unknown substances.
Scalise said she understands that campus living rules would still restrict students from smoking marijuana indoors, but she thinks students will still benefit from the change in laws in off-campus scenarios.
“I mean, they can’t stop kids from going off campus and getting high,” Scalise said.
Tanveen Vohra is a co-senior news editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tanveen Vohra is a former senior news editor and covered international relations and graduate student protests.