Administrators, students react to Cuomo’s proposed marijuana study

New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo called on legislators to affirm a motion that would allow the New York State Department of Health to investigate the possible effects of allowing recreational marijuana. Strictures from the federal government would likely maintain the administrative penalties for marijuana use on-campus. (Chuck Grimmett/Creative Commons)

New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo endorsed an initiative that would help to determine whether recreational marijuana should be legalized in New York State. The step toward potentially permitting recreational marijuana use has caused questions from some members of the campus community. 

If the state decides to legalize marijuana, the college would likely still restrict on-campus marijuana usage due to federal laws, according to Dean of Students and Director of Center for Community Leonard Sancilio.

“Private schools can create their own policies and just have to follow their own policies,” Sancilio said. “No colleges that receive federal funding can allow marijuana on their campuses because marijuana is federally illegal. It’s currently a Schedule I narcotic and since we rely on federal funds, we have to defer to federal law.”

The study plans to examine how the effects of permitting in Massachusetts, Vermont and other neighboring states will impact New York, emphasizing its economic and criminal justice implications, according to a Jan. 16 article from the Democrat & Chronicle. The New York State Department of Health would lead the proposed study in conjunction with New York State Police and other agencies, according to the same article.

Recreational marijuana use is multifaceted and has been influenced by a variety of factors, ranging from issues of law to wellbeing, according to Alcohol and Other Drug Program Coordinator Sarah Covell.

“I think it’s wise that our governor wants to look at what’s happening in other states because there are unintended consequences [other states] didn’t necessarily know about,” Covell said. “There’s a huge amount of information that we don’t know about marijuana and because it’s been legalized in other states, we can get more information about it.”

The concern of mental health is also a factor in determining whether to allow marijuana use, according to Covell. For example, those who suffer from anxiety and depression tend to smoke marijuana because it initially mitigates their symptoms; however, marijuana can cause anxiety, panic attacks and psychotic symptoms in those who are more prone to them, Covell said. 

A survey conducted two years ago found that around 30 percent of Geneseo students consumed marijuana within a month of the survey, according to Covell. The college is working on a survey to estimate the current levels of marijuana usage among students, which Covell predicts will have increased due to the number of conduct cases she has encountered. 

Sociology major senior Miranda Neyerlin does not believe the governor’s proposed marijuana study is required.

“I personally don’t think a study on the states that legalized marijuana is necessary,” Neyerlin said. “There are a ton of concerns around health and crime in relation to alcohol use, which hasn’t had any impact on alcohol’s legality in this state.”

To that sentiment, physics and mathematics double major senior Marcus Converse voiced his concern for those who are not permitted to use prescription medical marijuana on-campus. 

“It’s confusing because medical marijuana is legal in New York State, but students can’t use their medical marijuana prescriptions on-campus because of federal laws,” Converse said. “It’s not fair to those who really need it and can’t use it.”