It’s been a month since Governor Phil Murphy signed several bills finalizing the legalization of marijuana in New Jersey, and many people may wonder what comes next.
For adults over the age of 21, worrying about being arrested or fined for possession of marijuana is no longer an issue, and smoking in public will soon become normal, but if you are an adult college student residing on campus, the rules are different.
Since SPU maintains a smoke-free campus, students are not allowed to engage in smoking of any substance, including tobacco and vaping products, while on school grounds.
Also, Saint Peter’s University is required to abide by federal regulations since it is funded by the federal government through financial aid. Students are expected to abstain from on-campus marijuana use or possession.
“What happens when [a student] fills out the FAFSA is [they] receive federal and state funding. Because Saint Peters is using that funding for your tuition, the federal guidelines and laws supersedes the state laws,”said Erin McCann, Vice President of Student Life and Development.
But SPU is not the only school that is bound by federal regulations.
According to Campus Drug Prevention, all colleges that accept federal funding must comply with the Drug-Free Schools and Community Act which prevents the use of substances defined as illicit by federal law on school property.
Universities are also able to prohibit students from the use of federally-illicit substances outside of campus property if they choose to, but it is not required.
McCann said that, although SPU will not allow the possession or use of marijuana on-campus, they will not interfere with off-campus use.
Students of age will be able to purchase and smoke marijuana off-campus without facing discipline from the school.
“[Smoking off campus] doesn’t fall under the conduct system unless you were reckless with it and now we have a disorderly or disruptive behavior charge,” said McCann.
But some students disagree with the notion that marijuana use should be exclusively off-campus. Angelica Jacobs, a senior, said that being able to smoke on campus would be beneficial for them.
“I think it sucks that we can’t even smoke privately in our rooms especially for people like me who need to smoke to do things,” they said. “Weed is the only thing that helps me focus or feel good enough to get things done.”
Gabriella Rico, a senior, agrees. She said that the university should try to better accommodate students who smoke.
“I understand that all the rules can’t change overnight, [but] I think it would be rather progressive of Saint Peter’s to at least amend some of their rules in order to acknowledge New Jersey’s steps in the right direction,” she said. “As a weed smoker who enjoys smoking for both recreational and medical reasons, I think it’s time Saint Peter’s caters to students like me too, even if it is just by lessening punishments or allowing for the possession of marijuana on campus.”
Other students feel that seeing fewer of their classmates being sanctioned would be a good thing although they do understand why the rules are put in place.
“I completely understand where they’re coming from, because the school is smoke free,” said Kianna Ross, senior. “They have values, and marijuana is not a part of it. We have to keep in mind it’s a Jesuit school, [but] less people [would] get in trouble if the rule was taken away.”
Although students expressed concern about repercussions if caught with marijuana on-campus, McCann said that the university will not be looking to get students in trouble.
As long as students conduct themselves normally and are not causing interference to their surrounding areas, they are not likely to be sanctioned.
McCann said that if a student were to smoke off-campus and return back to campus smelling of marijuana, the university could not do anything about it and would not need to unless the situation was out of hand.
“If you were to walk around Jersey City and smoke a joint and go back to your room, there is nothing under the code of conduct that would raise a red flag unless you were disruptive,” McCann said.
As the country changes and new laws are put in place, McCann said that the school fully intends on adjusting as is fit.
“As this moves on and evolves, and if the federal government changes their regulations, we're going to bend and flex with it,” said McCann. “I’m not here to discipline people, I’m here to keep them safe.”