For many colleges and universities, the idea of cannabis on campus is a nonstarter. Where cannabis laws don’t expressly forbid consumption or possession of marijuana at schools, school administrators have set clear policies prohibiting them. In the United States, these bans are so strict that they often prevent students with illness from bringing and taking their medicine at school, and have thus prompted legal challenges. In Canada, however, universities are taking a more progressive approach. On October 17, Canada will become the second country in the world to federally legalize cannabis. And rather than ban cannabis from campus outright, the University of Alberta is issuing guidelines for allowing cannabis possession and consumption on campus.
On Tuesday, the Cannabis Working Group at the University at Alberta released a report on cannabis legalization and the university.
Analyzing the university’s purview regarding marijuana, as well as the institutional risks legal weed poses, the working group devised more than 19 policy recommendations for handling cannabis on campus. Today, University of Alberta administrators gave their approval to all of them.
University of Alberta Assistant Dean of Health and Wellness described the aim of the working group as trying to “strike a balance” between what’s required under the law and the rights and values of those who may not support legalization or its consequences.
And that means taking a different approach than the City of Edmonton, where the university resides. Under Canada’s Bill C-45, provinces have the authority to set their own cannabis policies. And individual municipalities can set their own bylaws.
Alberta’s provincial cannabis law, Bill-26, restricts the public consumption of cannabis on any school property. But the City of Edmonton proposed amendments that would allow people to consume weed publicly in some places. Edmonton’s proposed amendments don’t restrict consumption on college campuses.
The University of Alberta isn’t adopting that loose of an approach. But they are allowing smoking and vaping in certain locations on campus. In short, students will be able to consume cannabis on campus.
The university’s public cannabis consumption policy isn’t a free-for-all, however. The working group issued several recommendations to balance the interests of those who want to smoke on campus and those who’d rather keep their distance from second-hand fumes or cannabis products entirely.
One of the first proposals on the list outlines public health and harm reduction strategies to reduce substance use problems. This includes prohibiting any sales, advertising, branding or sponsorship of cannabis products on campus or at university events. These are the same rules the university employs for tobacco and alcohol.
Other recommendations involve setting up clear workplace and learning environment policies, especially regarding impairment. University of Alberta will also implement a clean-air strategy to minimize student and staff exposure to tobacco and cannabis fumes.
As for where and when you can consume cannabis on campus, the working group has a couple recommendations. There will be no smoking, growing, vaping or cooking cannabis allowed in university residences or buildings. And smoking locations have to be safe, accessible year round, close to on-campus residences, yet at a distance of ten to 30 meters from doors, windows and vents, non-users, sports fields and children’s areas. So far, no specific consumption locations have been determined.
The committee also issued recommendations that impact faculty, outlining approaches to conducting cannabis-related research and accepting grants and other donations from the cannabis industry. The University of Alberta will review all of the recommendations and policies in six months and make any needed changes. University administrators are also welcoming input on the current policies.
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