NYC Legalizes Weed — What Does It Mean for College Students?


Some Fordham students may wish to celebrate the new legislation by smoking a joint on campus, but Dean Rodgers says weed is still prohibited on campus. (Courtesy of Twitter)

As of March 31, New York State has legalized the possession, use and sale of marijuana, according to New York Magazine. This landmark legislation comes after years of efforts from activists and politicians alike to decriminalize the drug.

The bill, signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo at the end of last month, established the Office of Cannabis Management, which will implement “a comprehensive regulatory framework that covers medical, adult-use and cannabinoid hemp,” according to a statement released by the Governor’s Press Office.

The state projects that the legalization of marijuana and the subsequent development of a cannabis industry will bring in tax collections reaching $350 million annually.

“This is a historic day in New York — one that rights the wrongs of the past by putting an end to harsh prison sentences, embraces an industry that will grow the Empire State’s economy and prioritizes marginalized communities so those that have suffered the most will be the first to reap the benefits,” said Cuomo.

New Yorkers age 21 years or older may now possess up to three ounces of marijuana, roughly the equivalent of 50 to 75 joints, according to New York Magazine. New Yorkers can smoke marijuana in any area or building where cigarette smoking is allowed, like sidewalks, streets, parked cars, rooftops and private residences. Police in New York will no longer arrest anyone for possession of marijuana, but it’s still illegal to drive under the influence of weed.

The bill also mandates the expungement or resentencing of anyone with a previous marijuana conviction for an infraction that is now made legal in New York.

It’s expected to take at least 18 months for recreational marijuana to be available for purchase in stores, according to New York Magazine. It is still technically illegal to purchase marijuana from an unlicensed seller, though police can’t arrest New Yorkers for selling weed unless they see an exchange of cash.

Despite the legalization of weed for anyone 21 or older, it does not appear that New York college students can expect to “light up” on the many college campuses across the state any time soon.

On the whole, it appears that college students across the country overwhelmingly support the legalization of weed. A Pew Research survey conducted in 2019 found that 75% of undergraduate students in the U.S. support the recreational use of marijuana, even though only 55% of those students surveyed reported having used the drug before.

But students’ enthusiasm seems to have little effect on weed rules on New York colleges.

The Dean of Students at the University of Albany, Clarence McNeil, emailed students earlier this month to remind them that marijuana is still prohibited there.

“Despite this change to state law, the use and possession of marijuana on UAlbany’s campuses remains prohibited under federal law,” he wrote. As a publicly-funded university, UAlbany’s policies on marijuana must align with the federal Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act, explained McNeil.

Private universities like Fordham also typically receive federal funding and risk losing or repaying Title IV funding for knowingly permitting students to possess, use or distribute marijuana on campus, according to Times Union. In other states that have legalized weed, like Colorado and Massachusetts, universities’ policies largely reflect federal marijuana restrictions.

According to Fordham’s Student Handbook, “Fordham University strictly prohibits the unauthorized possession, use, distribution, sale, facilitation in the sale, purchase, or production of barbiturates, amphetamines, marijuana (including medical marijuana and cannabis oils), opiates, hallucinogens or any other addictive or illegal drugs and/or drug paraphernalia.”

Dean of Students Chris Rodgers indicated that Fordham students likely won’t be able to smoke weed on campus any time soon.

“The University is monitoring the changes in the law here in New York State and will make any necessary adjustments,” Rodgers wrote in an email to the Ram. “We don’t anticipate any major change in policy regarding marijuana use among students, however.”