During state budget negotiations a few weeks ago, there were murmurs that a deal could be reached between Governor Cuomo and Albany lawmakers to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana in NYC. The governor proposed making marijuana possession a violation rather than a misdemeanor, aiming to reduce the amount of people jailed overnight and reallocate police resources. It was a proposal that was even supported by control-freak Mayor Bloomberg but was ultimately overlooked in the horse trading and political posturing that is budget negotiations.
While the buzz surrounding marijuana decriminalization may have died for now, the debate will likely reignite in the future, as a growing percentage of people have become pro-decriminalization of the sticky icky. So, in prep for that, we here at NYU Local ask: what impact would decriminalization have on NYU’s marijuana policy?
“Any changes in New York State’s drug laws would have no impact on NYU policies,” James Devitt, Deputy Director for Media Relations at NYU, told us. “This is because, as a university, NYU is subject to the federal Drug Free Schools and Communities Act. The Act ties federal funding, including student financial aid, to the requirement that institutions have policies prohibiting marijuana and other controlled substances, which are illegal under federal law.”
NYU’s current policy on marijuana prohibits both the possession and use of marijuana in residence halls, with violators facing disciplinary action and possible criminal charges. As Devitt mentions, NYU must have these policies in place in order to receive Title IV funding from the federal government, which includes Pell Grants, Work Study aid and federal student loans.
Even if there was a change in marijuana policy at the state level, it would still be considered illegal at the federal level, which is where the money is at. So until Obama evolves on his stance on pot, don’t expect too much if marijuana is decriminalized in the city.
And the prohibition extends to medical marijuana too. In states where medical marijuana is legal, like Maine, universities still cannot allow students to use it even when prescribed by a doctor. Speaking to NPR, Stephen Nelson, who oversees student misconduct at the University of Southern Maine says “It’s not a question of right or wrong, ethical or not ethical, any of that. Right now, we just can’t run the risk of losing federal dollars.”
So state lawmakers may pick up this issue of decriminalizing marijuana again next year or the year after. Perhaps even limit the thousands who go to jail every year for such charges. But maybe the state wouldn’t even have to act—a proposal in the City Council called the Community Safety Act would, among other things, lower the charges for marijuana possession in the city. The bill has support from mayoral candidates Christine Quinn and Bill de Blasio, but is contested by the mayor and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
Hopefully you’re ready if any of these bills pass.