Despite changes in state laws, it will remain unlawful to possess, use or sell cannabis in any form on the NIU campus, because NIU receives funding from the federal government. We must abide by the rules in the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act and the Drug Free Workplace Act.

College Students and Cannabis

  • 20.4 percent of NIU students reported using cannabis within the last 30 days (NCHA, 2017).
  • 58.4 percent of NIU students reported that they have never used cannabis (NCHA, 2017).
  • According to the DEA, one in every 22 college students uses cannabis daily or nearly daily.
  • According to the DEA, more than 85 percent of college students think their peers have used cannabis within the past 30 days.
  • In 2019, 43 percent of U.S. college students used cannabis at least once in the last year. This is a 25 percent increase from 2017.
  • College students, already stressed with adult responsibilities and classes, often turn to cannabis for release not realizing the detrimental effects of cannabis use.

Information to Consider for Health and Wellness

  • The most effective way to avoid any risk associated with cannabis is to abstain from use.
    People who smoke cannabis should avoid practices such as “deep inhalation” as it can increase the intake of toxic material into the pulmonary system.
  • Driving while impaired from cannabis is associated with an increased risk of involvement in motor-vehicle accidents. It is recommended that users refrain from driving (or operating other machinery or mobility devises) for at least six hours after using cannabis.
  • Cannabis is the drug most frequently found in the blood of drivers who have been involved in vehicle crashes, including fatal ones.
  • Frequent cannabis use is strongly associated with higher risks of experiencing adverse health and social outcomes related to cannabis use. Users should be aware and vigilant to keep their own cannabis use occasional (e.g., use only on one day/week, weekend use only, etc.) at most. 
  • Smoking cannabis can cause respiratory health problems such as coughing, wheezing, worsening of asthma symptoms, sore throat, chest tightness and shortness of breath.
  • The earlier individuals begin using cannabis, the higher the risk of cognitive harm.
    Memory impairment from cannabis use occurs because THC alters how the area in the brain that is responsible for memory formation processes information.
  • In early adulthood, the brain goes through a maturation process that includes refinements and reorganization of the brain’s circuitry. Cannabis use can negatively affect this process and have an impact on further brain development.
  • Several studies have linked cannabis use to increased risk for psychiatric disorders including psychosis, depression, anxiety and substance use disorders.
  • Evidence suggests that a person’s risk of heart attack during the first hour after using cannabis is nearly five times their usual risk.



  • Considerable evidence suggests that students who use cannabis have poorer educational outcomes (i.e., reduced chances of graduation) than their non-using peers.
  • Research shows that after cannabis use, there is a decrease in the ability to pay attention and concentrate.
  • Cognitive deficits can persist for up to a month after cessation of cannabis use.


  • Studies find that people who frequently smoke cannabis have more outpatient medical visits for respiratory problems than those who do not smoke.

Legal and Conduct

  • Under federal law, recreational and medical use or possession of cannabis is illegal on campus property.  



Can NIU prohibit me from engaging in conduct that is permissible under state law?

Yes. NIU will not permit the possession and/or use of cannabis on university property. As a higher education institution, property owner and recipient of federal funds, NIU has not only the authority, but legal obligation to prohibit cannabis on campus and at university events. Students, faculty and staff who violate these policies are subject to disciplinary proceedings.

How do federal laws prohibiting cannabis use interact with its legality on a state level?

Federal law prohibiting cannabis preempts state laws attempting to legalize the drug. The possession, use and distribution of cannabis is still illegal and subject to prosecution under federal law, regardless of what state laws permit and regardless of whether the federal government chooses to actively enforce federal law in those states that have legalized recreational cannabis use.


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