Will Le Moyne College’s Campus Change if NY State Legalizes Marijuana?

Syracuse, NY- There are nine states that have legalized both recreational and medical marijuana, and 20 states, including New York, in which marijuana is legal for medical use only. If New York state legalizes the recreational use of marijuana, will it change Le Moyne College’s campus? The answer is uncertain, but most likely no.


Le Moyne College is a smoke-free, tobacco-free campus and because of that, the recreational use of marijuana would not be allowed on campus. The rate of on-campus possession could increase, but according to Mark Petterelli, Director of Security at Le Moyne, the security on campus would not change.


“We’re doing enforcement based on laws and community standards, and much of what we do is based on the community standards,” Petterelli said. “So we would continue to follow whatever protocols that the law dictates and the college puts into place.”


There are multiple cases a year in which a student is caught in possession of marijuana on campus. “It’s not unusual for us to have a marijuana case on campus, but we aren’t dealing with hundreds of them,” said Petterelli.


If New York state were to legalize, there is a chance this number could go up. If this drug were to be legalized, it wouldn’t be a surprise if a dispensary or cannabis shop opened up in a location close to campus, such as on Erie Boulevard. This would make access to marijuana easier for students, but the drug-free regulations would mean that students could not bring their dosages back on campus.  


Marijuana would not be allowed on campus, no matter whether it’s smoked, taken in pill-form, baked into food, or consumed in any other way. According to Petterelli, because recreational marijuana is not yet legal in New York state, Le Moyne hasn’t put much thought into what would happen on campus if it were to be legalized.


“We haven’t really discussed this, if there would be a change, because not only are we smoke-free, we’re tobacco-free,” Petterelli said. “So my perspective is no; there would be no exception to that rule because it’s legal.”


Gonzaga University, a Jesuit university in Spokane, Washington, had to deal with that state’s legalization of marijuana in 2012. Gonzaga’s campus is drug-free.


Sue Wietz, the Vice President of Student Life at Gonzaga, said she had to act fast once Washington legalized marijuana, because some students were confused by what the new laws meant.


Wietz said she heard that some students felt they could smoke on campus.


In response, she sent an email to all Gonzaga students, saying, “The new law is by no means a free pass to grow, possess, and use marijuana without any conditions or restrictions. The University’s current drug policy remains in place and we do not anticipate any changes.”  


This reaction and response was one that was considered necessary by Wietz, as she needed to make sure that everyone understood that the law changed nothing on campus.  


“People were saying we could smoke pot on campus,” said Wietz. The campus has yet to change its policies to this day, maintaining a drug-free campus. There are still penalties for having or using marijuana on campus, and the penalties vary based on what a person is caught with.  


There is a strong chance college campuses across New York, not just Le Moyne, will encounter issues like these. With the prospect of legalizing recreational marijuana in New York increasing, these issues might be closer in the future than initially thought.


New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill in 2014 to legalize medical marijuana use in the state. Cuomo suggested this past January the funding of a state government committee to study the effects of legalizing marijuana for recreational use in New York.

However, last February, Cuomo made statements against the recreational use of marijuana. “I don’t support recreational marijuana,” he said, according to New York State of Politics. “As of this date, I am unconvinced on recreational marijuana. If you choose to use marijuana recreationally, you know the law. But, again, as reporters, I think you should keep it out of the workplace.”

Cuomo has also in the past referred to marijuana as a “gateway drug” in the community. Taking into consideration the legalization of recreational marijuana use in nearby states such as New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Vermont, the pressure of legalizing recreational use of marijuana in the state of New York is likely to increase.

Due to this, Cuomo has become more aware of the activity from nearby jurisdictions, an awareness that has helped make him more optimistic about legalizing the recreational use marijuana in New York, according to Vice News.

The legalization of recreational marijuana in states such as Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont, and Colorado has led those states to expect millions in additional tax revenue. Cuomo realizes that New York would be missing out on millions of dollars in tax revenue if they didn’t make strides towards legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, according to the New York Law Journal.

In order for New York to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, it has to get confirmation from the federal government first, which seems to be an issue because the federal government is currently opposed to further legalization of marijuana.

Cuomo feels that if other states surrounding New York got confirmation on legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, that should be the case for the New York as it is in the middle of states that legalized recreational use, according to New York Law Journal.

“If it was legalized in Jersey and it was legal in Massachusetts and the federal government allowed it to go ahead, what would that do to New York, because it’s right in the middle?” said Cuomo to the New York Law Journal.

Many people in New York are pro-legalization of recreational marijuana use, especially the youth, as exhibited in recent polls taken by Siena College and Emerson College. In the Sienna poll, 49 percent of registered voters supported legalizing recreational use of marijuana. In the poll taken by Emerson College, 62 percent of registered voters approved of legalizing marijuana. While the state might change if recreational marijuana is legalized, Le Moyne will likely stay the same as long as students, faculty, and staff follow campus regulations.