Marijuana use will still be prohibited on New Jersey college campuses once legalization goes into effect

Though New Jersey voters overwhelmingly voted in favor of a ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana sale and use for all adults over 21, state lawmakers are still embroiled in a fight over the rules that will ultimately govern the drug. 

Although the amendment to the state’s constitution, approved by voters in November, technically went into effect on Jan. 1, the state of marijuana use is sitting in a kind of legal limbo until legislation is passed by the state legislature and is signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy.

On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee moved to delay a vote on a marijuana bill that would establish rules over the sale of the drug and halt arrests for marijuana possession, due to squabbling between lawmakers and Murphy over establishing rules that would penalize offenders under 21 for possession of the drug. 

Voting sessions in the Senate and the Assembly were both moved back to Friday from Thursday as a result of the snowstorm currently passing through the state.

Despite the eventual passage of laws that will legalize the use of pot for those 21 years old and older, it remains unlikely that college students in the state will see any real change in enforcement practices even for those who are of age. 

State lawmakers are still deliberating about cannabis legalization bills that will set rules on the sale of the drug as well as decriminalizing its possession. (Elsa Olofsson/Wikimedia Commons)

That’s thanks to a 1996 law that allows the federal government to withhold funding from colleges and public schools that do not ban drugs on their campuses.

In Massachusetts, for instance, which legalized recreational marijuana use for adults over 21 in 2016, universities can still choose not to allow marijuana use on campuses.

According to a Massachusetts State Government webpage that describes the marijuana laws of the state, despite legalization, marijuana use can still be “a major legal headache” for students and in some cases can result in if the loss of financial aid if students are caught breaking federal or state law.

“It’s clear that schools can suspend or kick out a person for marijuana conduct that would be legal in Massachusetts,” John Scheft, an attorney and expert in marijuana law, told MassLive.com in 2019

In California, recreational marijuana has been legal since 2016, but many colleges in the state, including the California State University System, do not permit the use of marijuana on their campuses

Winston Roberts, associate dean of students at Seton Hall, noted that even when legalization passes, consumption of the drug would remain illegal on public and private college campuses regardless of if someone is of legal age. 

“It must be noted that the bill would still prohibit consumption in any area of any building of,  on  the grounds of, or in any facility owned, leased, or controlled by any public or private institution of higher education or a related entity thereof, regardless of whether the area or facility is an indoor place or outdoors, and the penalty provisions of the New Jersey Smoke-Free Air Act would be applicable for a violation,” Roberts said. 

Roberts also said that the penalties for students that break Housing and Residence Life (HRL) would marijuana policy would be handled on a case-by-case basis. 

“The student conduct response to a violation of the University drug policy can vary depending on the behavior,” Roberts said. “The University student conduct process ultimately seeks to educate the students that participate in our student conduct process.” 

Samantha Paradise, a junior theatre and public relations major at Seton Hall, weighed in on her opinion on the University’s marijuana policy following the vote to legalize recreational marijuana. 

“I think that the allowance of weed on campus would cause chaos in terms of people dealing [or] being high on campus,” Paradise said. “This said, I think that there shouldn’t be a penalty if someone, like Securitas, on campus finds out you’re high. It is still federally illegal and it really isn’t a good PR look for the school. I wish it were different but it’s better for the school and Seton Hall community that allowing marijuana on campus won’t be happening.”

Genevieve Krupcheck can be reached at genevieve.krupcheck@student.shu.edu.

Author: Genevieve Krupcheck

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