New law will not make cannabis okay on campus  

Whether you are faculty, staff or a student at Northern Illinois University, campus rules and regulations regarding cannabis will not change after Jan. 1, 2020.

As an institution that receives federal funding, NIU is subject to the rules of the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act and the Drug Free Workplace Act. Those laws require that any federally funded institution must make an effort to fight illegal drugs, and because the federal government has not legalized cannabis, that includes marijuana.

Therefore, while it will be legal for individuals over the age of 21 to possess and use marijuana in Illinois, it will remain illegal to possess, sell or consume cannabis on the campus of NIU or at any other institution in the state that receives federal funding. That applies to cannabis in any form, whether it is for vaping, smoking, eating, etc. 

“The long and short of it is that the same policies and procedures surrounding the use of marijuana on campus – whether by students, faculty or staff — will continue to be in effect, and will be enforced, after Jan. 1,” said Celeste Latham, NIU associate vice president for Human Resources.  

For employees, university sanctions for using drugs or alcohol (or being under the influence while at work) include, but are not limited to, referral for counseling, temporary suspension without pay and termination of employment.

“These policies have been in place for a long time, we are familiar with them and we know how to apply them when needed. We feel equipped to handle any issues that may arise as a result of this new law,” said NIU Director of Employee and Labor Relations Jesse Perez. 

Similarly, says NIU Associate Dean of Students Michael Zajac, students will remain subject to existing sanctions, despite the new laws.

“Our community advisors, Student Conduct Office and Campus Police will continue to enforce the rules on campus the same as they do now, whether a student is over the age of 21 or not,” Zajac said. For first-time incidents, sanctions could range from a mandatory substance use assessment to fines or probation for one academic year.

Students living off-campus also should familiarize themselves with the new law, as it does include restrictions regarding where individuals can use marijuana (for instance, it cannot be used in parks or on sidewalks), and includes a clause that allows landlords to forbid use on their property.

In response to the new law, NIU Recreation and Wellness is preparing to take an approach similar to that they employ regarding alcohol. They will be prepared to discuss how to reduce the risks of using marijuana and to provide information on how the substance impacts things such as health, wellness and academics.

More information and resources are available by visiting NIU’s Tobacco, Alcohol, Cannabis and Other Drugs website.  Students are also invited to attend an open forum on the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act to ask the questions that are on their minds about cannabis on campus.  The open forum will be held on Thursday, Dec. 5 from 5 to 6 p.m. in the new OASIS space located on the first floor of the Holmes Student Center.

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