With the signing of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), or Cannabis Law, March 31, New York became the 15th state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana by adults. Now that in the eyes of the state, the status of weed is similar to that of alcohol, is there more opportunity for leisure for the adult students of SUNY Plattsburgh?
The simple answer is no. According to Mason Barber, Community Advocate in Whiteface Hall, students of the legal drinking age are allowed to have and use alcohol in their rooms, but not cannabis. Even in the amount stipulated by law, even by students aged 21 and over.
Larry Allen, director of Student Conduct, said the school has not yet received updated legal guidance regarding marijuana on campus because the law is so recent. The only change made to the Student Conduct Manual since the previous year was the addition of the word “cannabis” to refer to marijuana. Allen shared that the institution must abide by both state and federal law “and sometimes one law trumps the other.”
Additionally, as part of the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act (DFSCA) Amendments of 1989, the use of marijuana would not be permitted on any university campus. SUNY Plattsburgh cannot allow the use of marijuana on campus until it’s legalized on a federal level, despite New York State law allowing it. Alternatively, the school may choose to disallow cannabis use on campus, even if it becomes federally legal.
“The campus can always go above and beyond the law; we can be more restrictive,” Allen said.
Investigator Seth Silver of University Police said the recreational use of marijuana would be treated as a violation of the code of conduct, not the law. This means that if a student is caught smoking weed on campus, they would be in trouble with the institution, but not the law, assuming they are 21 or older. Even knowingly being in the presence of cannabis or paraphernalia would be considered a violation, as well, regardless of age.
On Friday, Sept. 10, an email reminder regarding edibles — food products made with marijuana — was sent out to the entire student body by Patrick Rascoe, Chief of University Police.
“Our hope is that you will not consume this drug but if you do, please be responsible,” the email said.
The Student Conduct Manual may allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes, with an authentic prescription, as it falls under medication. Student Conduct is aware that some students use medical marijuana for cancer, anxiety, stress, pain, or other ailments, and promised to do their best in order to meet these needs. The question of cannabis on campus will continue to be discussed in greater detail throughout the year. The student body and faculty will be notified of any developments.
So far, University Police have had few incidents related to the possession or use of cannabis on campus this year. At the moment, their primary concern regarding this issue is fire safety. In most campus buildings and residential halls, there are reminders that smoking is not allowed in any shape or form, whether tobacco, vape or marijuana. The rule applies within 25 feet (7.62 meters) of the building.
Additionally, there has been a tobacco restriction in place since Aug. 15, 2015, as per SUNY Plattsburgh’s Tobacco-Restricted Campus Policy. This policy restricts any tobacco use, including smoking, to only certain parking lots on campus. This, however, does not apply to marijuana. Students are also asked to refrain from smoking on sidewalks along city streets, although they are considered “a public right-of-way.”