Cannabis Legalization on the Horizon

Post-secondary institutions across Canada amend their policies to brace for the bud

Greta Kooy // News Editor

The sale and use of recreational marijuana will become legal across Canada on Oct.17. Legalization will give Canadians aged 19 and over the ability to purchase marijuana in a similar fashion to that of alcoholic beverages. As one of the most talked-about campaign promises of the Trudeau Liberals, Canadians have anticipated the legalization of cannabis for years. Although Canada has already had a regulated medical marijuana industry for the past five or so years, there is still a great deal of apprehension towards its full, recreational legalization.

Many post-secondary institutions across the country are still in the process of amending their policies with regards to cannabis use on campus. Unlike post-secondaries in the United States where cannabis remains illegal at the federal level and violation of the law can result in a compromise of federal funding, Canadian campuses will now have a choice in the matter.

“Policy related to drug use is addressed by Capilano University’s Student Code of Conduct and WorkSafeBC’s Occupational Health and Safety Regulations,” said Cheryl Rossi, CapU’s senior communications advisor. CapU follows local bylaws in regards to “smoking, vaping and cannabis”, and is currently developing its policies to meet specific regulations. “The University has moved smoking poles further from building entrances to comply with the District of North Vancouver Smoking Regulation Bylaw 7792,” Rossi said for example.

With cannabis legalization fast approaching, CapU recognizes the need for an updated smoking policy, one the will examine “its obligations to accommodate medicinal cannabis consumption,” according to Rossi, who added that “the University respects the rights of Indigenous peoples in their use of tobacco, or other substances, for traditional, cultural or spiritual purposes.”

To ensure the right steps are taken, the University has created an advisory committee to address smoking on campus. “The committee is responsible for a community consultation process, policy development, communications, implementation and enforcement strategy,” said Rossi. This new policy will take effect in early 2019, and will consider “the differences between smoking cigarettes, vaping, recreational cannabis and medical cannabis.”

This issue was also addressed in a Friday, Oct. 5 Capilano Students’ Union (CSU) board of directors meeting, with a unanimous decision to approve a policy regarding the CSU’s belief that both recreational and medicinal use of cannabis should be allowed on campus. This decision will not directly impact legalities, which the University settles on regarding the use of cannabis on campus.

CSU representative to the advisory committee for CapU smoking policies, Dhillon Dilnavaz, hopes that the views expressed in this policy will positively impact them. “We believe that we should legalize and allow recreational and medicinal cannabis on campus,” he commented on the decision.

A report released in early September by the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) stated that 65 of Canada’s post-secondary institutions were “100 [per cent] smoke-free”. Included in these are schools such as Dalhousie University, McMaster University and the University of Regina.

Other post-secondary institutions including McGill University, Niagara College, the University of Ottawa and Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) are either preparing to – or already do – offer formal cannabis-related education. KPU, for example, has partnered with the National Institute for Cannabis Health and Education. Although marijuana-related courses are offered at KPU online, the school had already released a smoke-free policy in early 2018 with a specific “plant-based” products section designed to address marijuana use.

Some institutions like the University of Manitoba are considering a blanket ban on smoking both tobacco and cannabis on their campuses. Others are considering limiting smoking to designated areas. The British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) will take a “zero-tolerance” approach.

At the University of Guelph, smoking cannabis on campus will be prohibited, although edible cannabis could be tolerated. Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario shares a similar stance. Edibles seem to take on a different meaning for post-secondary institutions, like at the University of Waterloo, which is considering allowing the consumption of edibles within residence buildings on campus. Smoking cannabis, however, is prohibited.

Closer to home, the University of British Columbia is revising its cannabis policy to reflect the same attitude it has on the smoking and vaping of tobacco on campus, the majority of which is “smoke-free”.

Several studies have shown that the use of marijuana can have serious and harmful effects on the brain, especially in teens and young adults. For example, cannabis places youth at the risk of developing psychosis. However, similar studies have shown that the consumption of alcohol in excessive amounts can be more damaging than light, recreational cannabis use. Despite this, drinking cultures across colleges and university campuses remain prominent globally.

While it may not be possible for campuses to completely wipe out substance use, it is possible to caution students, faculty and staff on the negative effects of drug use. Ottawa’s Carleton University, for example, provides a digestible amount of important information regarding the use and effects of cannabis through their website, with key links included to counselling and addiction services.

“We know that telling people not to consume cannabis or alcohol has been proven to be ineffective,” Debbie Bruckner, senior director of student wellness, access and support at the University of Calgary stated earlier this year. Despite many of Canada’s post-secondary institutions implementing new policies regarding cannabis use, some light and some not-so-light, time will only tell whether they will be effective or not.

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