SUNY New Paltz’s Two-Strike Policy Strikes Out

The State University of New York (SUNY) at New Paltz will now join other top-tier SUNY campuses by updating penalties for use or possession of illicit drugs, including marijuana.

As of the current 2018-2019 academic year, SUNY New Paltz will no longer follow its two-strike policy against students found guilty of Possession of Illicit and/or Controlled Substances.

In last year’s Student Handbook, it was stated that the penalty for a second offense be “not less than expulsion” for marijuana use. The current penalty for drug-related offenses is disciplinary probation, suspension held in abeyance, suspension or expulsion with special conditions including educational and/or clinical intervention, possible denial of campus residency and parental notification if applicable. 

The policy now offers a range of sanctions for a drug offense, recognizing that a student’s minor offense should not terminate their pursuit of a college degree.

According to the July 2018 Student Handbook Section B, item 12.01, “No person shall use, possess, manufacture or have under their control any narcotic, illegal drug or controlled substance not prescribed to them by a licensed physician, including but not limited to: cocaine and its derivatives, heroin, opiates, barbiturates, amphetamines, organic or synthetic, depressants, stimulants and hallucinogens; marijuana and its derivatives, including hash and hash oil, plants, seeds, resins, etc. or any other substance specifically prohibited or controlled by Federal or State law.”

Although illicit drug use and possession remains illegal in New York State and the language barring drug use or possession of illicit and/or controlled substances on campus remains unchanged, expulsion is no longer mandated as the penalty for a second offense.

We at The New Paltz Oracle support this change and believe it is a step in the right direction by the administration to modernize and implement common sense drug policies that will support students in pursuit of their college degrees.

This change in policy aligns well with changes at the state level. New York State began to decriminalize its laws regarding possession of marijuana in 1977. Currently, a first offense for possession of up to 25 grams of marijuana results in a maximum fine of $100. A second offense carries a $200 fine and a third offense is a $250 fine and a maximum of 15 days in jail.

Before this change, SUNY New Paltz was the only SUNY to have a two strike policy. The updated sanctions now more closely aligns with the policies of other schools in the SUNY system such as SUNY Purchase and SUNY Oswego, who list several sanctions before ultimately deciding expulsion. For example, mandatory participation in Alcohol and Other Drug intervention programs, participation in a substance education class or disciplinary probation. SUNY Binghamton and SUNY Albany simply state that possession and personal use of marijuana is a violation of the student policy and may result in disciplinary action. 

“The change gives our campus officials the latitude to exercise their good professional judgment about the best interest of individual students and our campus environment in determining sanctions,” said Vice President Stephanie Blaisdell in a campus-wide letter on May 29. 

With about one in five young adults aged 18 to 25 (20.8 percent) being current users of marijuana, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, it is appropriate for schools to be more flexible in their policies and provide resources for rehabilitation instead of expulsion. 

Nine states and the District of Columbia have passed laws legalizing marijuana for recreational use. In a single election cycle, the amount of states in which the recreational use of marijuana is legal rose from five to 20 percent, noticeably absent from that list is New York State. In 2016, California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts legalized marijuana for recreational use, joining Washington and Colorado which legalized in 2012 and Oregon and Alaska legalizing in 2014. Vermont also legalized marijuana for recreational use this year.

New York State however, is getting closer to the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. According to The New York Times on July 13, the state Health Department issued a report recommending the legalization of marijuana and Gov. Andrew Cuomo suggest that marijuana legalization in New York was a question of when, not if. This report followed a change in policy in New York City when Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that some individuals using marijuana would receive tickets instead of being arrested.

We at The Oracle do not condone the use of drugs, but we are pleased to see that both the college and the state government are pushing law and policy on marijuana use in a progressive direction. Being that September is National Recovery Month we would also like to express our appreciation for the college’s efforts to serve those struggling with substance abuse or addiction.

To assist students in their substance abuse or mental health issues, SUNY New Paltz has implemented various resources throughout the years. In 2017, the College received a grant from Gov. Andrew Cuomo to prevent drug and alcohol abuse. The money awarded to New Paltz went into appointing the College’s first ever prevention coordinator, Jaclyn Cirillo, as well as new training for faculty and staff, an awareness campaign and joint operations between College and Town officials. 

“This month, 55 staff [members] from multiple Student Affairs departments were trained in a new screening and intervention technique for early identification of substance issues,” Blaisdell said. 

Recovery Month is an annual observance aimed to educate Americans that substance use treatment and mental health services can enable those with a mental and/or substance use disorder to live a healthy and rewarding life. It also recognizes the strides made by those in recovery and celebrates their health improvements as would be in any medical disease or disorder.

In its 29th year, the 2018 Recovery Month observance will focus on urban communities, health care providers, members of the media and, of course, policymakers. Although we recognize that the institution of the former two-strike policy was of legitimate reason and concern, we are pleased at our own policymakers’ ability to modernize the rules and regulations that we are held to on campus.

As recently as 2015, SUNY New Paltz has found itself atop the list for amount of drug arrests per capita in the SUNY system. We are not proud of this figure and we believe the best way to address it is a collaborative effort on behalf of the entire campus community. 

We at The Oracle support this sensible adjustment to the campus’ drug policy and believe it was a needed, and much appreciated first step to improving relations between students and campus officials.


Pg 23 of last year’s and this year’s student handbook, campus-wide email on May 29

Weed the People


(B): Uses or possesses cannabis or derivatives of cannabis, except as defined in policy violation E.8A.

Minimum: Disciplinary Probation

Maximum: Expulsion

Recommended Standard 1st Offense: Disciplinary probation for one year, mandatory substance education class (Includes parental notification).

Recommended Standard 2nd Offense: Suspension for one semester, a mandatory substance assessment and compliance with the terms of the assessment prior to return, disciplinary probation upon return for one academic year (Includes parental notification).

Recommended Standard 3rd Offense: Expulsion (Includes parental notification).

SUNY Binghampton: simply says the “University does not tolerate the unlawful use and/or abuse of alcohol or other drugs”

. Possession, personal use or purchasing of marijuana, controlled substances,  prescription drugs prescribed to another person, illegal drugs; or possession of   drug paraphernalia containing drug residue.-violation of student code of conduct

SUNY Oswego: Marijuana 1) It is illegal in the State of New York to possess, use or traffic in marijuana (i.e., cannabis, hashish, hashish oil, tetrahydrocannabinol, etc.). 

     2) Legal consequences for the possession or criminal sale of marijuana may include fines and jail time.

Any student, student organization, team or sports club, and/or their guests and visitors, who violate this policy, will be subject to college disciplinary action and/or criminal action. Sanctions resulting from disciplinary action may include mandatory participation in Alcohol and Other Drug intervention programs, required conditions for continued enrollment, limited access to campus facilities or residence halls, suspension, or expulsion from the college.  Visitors and guests and student organizations who violate this policy may be denied access to the campus under the Rules for Maintaining Public Order.