Why marijuana is still illegal on New York college campuses

ALBANY – Pot may be legal now in New York, but buying, selling and consuming the drug is still prohibited on campuses, which are bound by federal laws.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on March 31 signed a bill legalizing the use of recreational marijuana in New York for those age 21 and older, but federal law still classifies cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug.

The federal Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act requires any institution that receives federal funding to have a drug policy that addresses marijuana use.

State University of New York students caught dealing or using marijuana on campus will be subject to disciplinary action under the university system’s code of conduct, according to a notice that went out to University at Albany students Monday.

“This prohibition covers all SUNY property in public as well as campus residence halls, University apartments, and offices, University-owned and leased buildings, housing, parking lots, and all SUNY events,” UAlbany Dean of Students Clarence McNeill wrote. “Throughout this challenging year, UAlbany students have repeatedly demonstrated a commitment to following our campus code of conduct, and I trust this will continue.”

McNeill added that UAlbany’s tobacco- and smoke-free campus policy also  prohibits smoking or vaping marijuana on campus.

SUNY has no position on students’ legal marijuana use off-campus. During the month of April, UAlbany’s Center for Behavioral Health Promotion and Applied Research will offer educational programs focused on cannabis and marijuana.

Private schools also receive federal money in the form of financial aid but are less reliant on those funding streams.

If a college or university knowingly permits possession, use, or distribution of marijuana, it is at risk of losing or having to repay Title IV funding, although it’s unclear if any institutions have ever been required to do so.

In other legal states like Colorado and Massachusetts, campus marijuana policies largely reflect the federal ban on cannabis use.

Local private schools, including Skidmore  College in Saratoga Springs and Loudonville’s Siena College, say they have not updated their marijuana policies since New York’s legalization, but the implications of the new law are currently being discussed by senior officials.

Cornell University last week emailed students emphasizing that the drug is illegal on campus under federal law.

Rachel Silberstein