University cannabis policies range from outright ban to cannabis-friendly smoking areas

While most administrations are still working on final policies, Langara College in Vancouver banned cannabis smoking last spring in response to impending legalization.

Universities are developing varying approaches to governing recreational cannabis on campus, from outright bans to designated cannabis smoking areas.

While most administrations are still working on final policies, Langara College in Vancouver banned cannabis smoking last spring in response to impending legalization.

The University of Victoria, however, is expected to create cannabis-friendly smoking areas on campus for adult students and residents that will not be open to minors, said Kane Kilbey, associate vice president of human resources.

“We are focused on those adults living on campus and finding an area near where they live where cannabis can be safely consumed,” he said. “Our data tell us that 23 per cent of our students have consumed cannabis in the past month, so these behaviours are well-entrenched.”

“The federal government has made it clear that non-medical cannabis will legal, just like beer and wine, after Oct. 17. So that’s a fundamental consideration (for UVic’s final policy),” he said.

A core part of the UVic’s messaging to students is about making good lifestyle choices and harm reduction. Cannabis has long been part of that conversation.

“We suspect a few more people may try mixing cannabis and alcohol, so we are enhancing that part of our message,” he said.

Students want the rules governing cannabis use on campus to be as similar as possible to the rules everywhere else, according to a submission to UBC’s cannabis policy development committee by Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

The group’s recommendations were drafted after a roundtable event with 25 students and staff members at UBC Okanagan last spring.

Selling cannabis on campus in single-use servings would help put it on a similar footing with alcohol, the authors say.

“Over-regulating on campus could lead to confusion about what the rules are and how to stay within them,” said Stephanie Lake, a PhD student who studies cannabis and harm reduction. She is also a board members of the Sensible Drug Policy group.

“There is a diverse community of people on campus and they skew younger, most are 18 to 24, coincidentally the demographic that consumes cannabis at the highest rates in Canada,” she said.

That community includes minors, who will not be allowed to consume or possess cannabis under the new regulations.

Permitting cannabis vaping lounges on campus would allow students who are 19 and over to consume cannabis in an age-controlled environment, she said.

Lounges would discourage use by underage students, protect people who don’t want to be in contact with cannabis and vaping will reduce the physical harm of smoking, she said.

“Allowing moderate access to cannabis on campus may be the best way to control it, just as liquor stores check ID,” Lake said.

A draft of UBC’s new cannabis policy will be referred soon to the Board of Governors, followed by a public consultation on the policy, said university counsel Hubert Lai in a statement.

SFU is concerned that recreational cannabis may create unsafe conditions and occupational hazards, said spokesman Justin Wong.

“Any policy developed will not only comply with the new legislative changes on cannabis, but will also prioritize a safe working environment and university experience for students, staff and faculty members,” he said.

The Ministry of Advanced Education is encouraging public colleges and universities to give public health and safety top priority when they draft cannabis policy.

The ministry and the federal government are creating educational resources on cannabis use that will apply to campuses, including a website on the risks of cannabis and drug-impaired driving to launch ahead of legalization.