Cory Leitz faces 20 years in prison for knowingly growing over 1,000 marijuana plants. But what about convictions for small amounts of marijuana? A Utica attorney says that type of conviction can pack a punch.
"Marijuana is not so bad. It's grown from the earth," says Pedro Giammona, Mohawk Valley Community College student.
"I don't think it's as bad as drinking or as bad as the hard drugs," says Ashley Centore, Mohawk Valley Community College student.
But law enforcement officials disagree.
"It's illegal to use it, to sell it, in New York state, its illegal. Despite what some people might think philosophically, it's against the law," says Sgt. Steve Hauck, Utica Police Department.
"If you wanna go smoke, go smoke. It's not really a big deal. It's not gonna kill you," says Giammona.
It may not kill you but the consequences of getting a possession of marijuana charge can dig you quite a grave.
"If a person is convicted of a drug related offense, and that includes the possession of small amounts of marijuana which in New York is not a crime, that person will forfeit all federally sponsored student loans and grants," says Mark Wolber, Utica attorney.
Some Mohawk Valley Community College students were shocked to hear the news.
"It's really outrageous. I feel bad for the students because I know a lot of kids they like to get high and relax and get high once in awhile. But knowing that, I'll second guess myself now," says Giammona.
"And if I couldn't go to college, I don't know what I'd do. My parents don't have much money, I'm counting on student aid right now to be able to go to school," says Centore.
Marijuana advocates often say marijuana is not addictive, but some experts are saying this might not be the case anymore.
"15-20 years ago, marijuana was not as strong as it is now. The THC have risen, a lot of the experts say a drug that was not addictive in the past physically, is now addictive," says Sgt. Hauck.
And college students seeking student loans aren't the only people facing consequences for marijuana use.
"If a person who is not a citizen is convicted of possession of marijuana twice, then that person will be subject to deportation," says Wolber.
Now some say the consequences are severe but law enforcement officials say it's simple: If you don't break the law - you won't have to face the consequences.
As for Corey Leitz, the 41-year-old Frankfort man pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to knowingly growing over 1,000 marijuana plants. And as we've mentioned, he may spend the rest of his life behind bars.