In February 1968, students returned from winter break to rumors of a marijuana bust. The rumor suggested the raid would occur in the early morning hours of Sunday, Feb. 4. In anticipation, students flushed the illegal substance down toilets, smoked it and even buried it in the Arts Quad.
The rumored bust, came to be known as “The Great Pot Bust Hoax,” never occurred. It is believed that the University spread the rumor intentionally, concerned about the “deluge of grass” predicted to occur as students returned to campus from various city areas after the break.
The hoax came after an announcement from a Joint Committee of the New York State Senate stating plans to investigate drug traffic at Cornell. A.J. Mayer and Howard A. Rodman, in a co-written article about the incident, stated the prominence of drug use in freshmen residence halls and fraternities. To counter-act the usage, dorm counselors were taught to recognize the smell of grass.
The authors noted the “deleterious effects” of marijuana usage, such as “paranoia,” and — quoted from an in-depth report — the “possibly detrimental effects to educational environment.” The article further stated the inability of the University to enforce the laws against marijuana usage, due to the impossibility of incarcerating a quarter of the freshman class.