NIU weed policy benefits campus

By Hunter Weston

It may be too soon for students to celebrate marijuana legalization because NIU’s marijuana policy will still stand. This is a blessing in disguise.

Beginning Jan. 1, recreational marijuana will be legal in Illinois. Residents of Illinois will be allowed to possess up to 30 grams.

The bill was signed into law June 25. However, there may be good cause for fear when it comes to marijuana legalization. According to NIU’s current policy, if caught with marijuana, sanctions can be imposed on students. The first of these sanctions includes suspension or expulsion from NIU and criminal charges, depending on the extent of the crime. More access to marijuana could possibly lead to students struggling academically, which means not turning in homework, studying or even getting enough sleep.

“Early-onset marijuana users demonstrate poorer attention, cognitive inhibition and abstract reasoning, all of which are critical skills needed to function and succeed in a college environment,” according to a 2017 PLOS ONE research article.

Everything possible should be done to avoid these negative effects on NIU’s campus, and if that means maintaining the original policy, then so be it.

Even though the Illinois state law has changed its stance on marijuana, federal law still states that marijuana is illegal.

“We are governed by the Drug-Free Schools Act, which is a federal law, and because of that, despite the fact that marijuana will be legal for recreational use in the state of Illinois, any institution in the state that receives federal funding has to continue treating it as a banned substance,” NIU Spokesperson Joe King said.

Maintaining the current policy will be beneficial in the long run. As students, schoolwork should always come first before social life or recreation. By taking marijuana out of the picture, students will more than likely focus on their academics. 

Even though NIU’s original policy stands, the school staff is still aware that the new law will affect students.

“This committee was really set up to ensure that students are well-versed on what the law is going to mean for them on campus,” King said. “What it’s going to mean for them off campus, and furthermore, to make sure they’re aware of wellness resources.”

He said an event will be held to help students stay safe, which takes place 5 p.m. Dec. 5 with a follow up on Jan. 23 in the Holmes Student Center Oasis. The event will cover upcoming changes to campus laws and how the marijuana law will affect the community, King said. There will be representatives from the Department of Police and Public Safety, student conduct and student wellness. There will also be a question and answer segment.

Although NIU’s marijuana policy will remain the same, this is a blessing, because students won’t have to worry about the drug affecting their academic performance and can instead focus on being students.