Illustration by Tricia Lim

Cannabis prohibition on campus the City of Calgary’s failing

October 11 2018 —

In about a week from now, recreational cannabis will be legalized in Canada, becoming the world’s second country to make consumption and sale of the substance fully legal nationwide. However, despite its legalization, there will still be plenty of restrictions on exactly what will be allowed after we enter the brave new world of legal pot on Oct. 17, especially here on campus.

At the University of Calgary, campus administrators plan on it being business as usual following cannabis legalization. After Calgary city council passed a municipal bylaw that effectively bans the use of recreational cannabis in the city’s post-secondary institutions, the university’s Cannabis Policy will similarly prohibit the consumption, growth or sale of pot anywhere on campus. Medicinal use is permitted, but besides that, there are no exceptions.

At first glance, it’s a stifling policy that unnecessarily moralizes the use of a soon-to-be legal substance. And while it’s true that the policy is more restrictive than is ideal, the U of C’s hands were tied in terms of what they were able to permit. Nearly every line of the school’s Cannabis Policy directly reflects a provincial or municipal law.

It’s absurd that after cannabis is legalized, there will be no way to legally consume recreational cannabis on campus. But that absurdity is the City of Calgary’s fault, as they passed a blanket ban on public pot use, including discarding plans for designated consumption spaces around the city. Originally, the U of C also planned on having designated cannabis smoking areas around campus, but those plans had to be scrapped.

The U of C also can’t be blamed for restricting cannabis use in residences, as those spaces already have ‘no smoking’ policies. But it means that, due to the city’s over-the-top bylaws, students living in residence will not have a space in which they can legally consume. Despite legalization, cannabis consumption effectively remains illegal for a large subsection of Calgarians.

It’s easy to point at other universities within the province to argue that the U of C should have taken an approach to cannabis more in line with those schools. The University of Alberta and the University of Lethbridge have similar cannabis policies, each earmarking locations on campus for permitted use while restricting consumption elsewhere. But those schools operate within municipalities with bylaws that are permissive of lighting up in public. Due to Calgary’s bylaws, the U of C — and other post-secondary institutions in the city, like the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology and Mount Royal University — have no choice but to take a hard-line stance prohibiting weed.

The roll-out process for legalization has been a farce, with cities and provinces having too much power to enact legislation that makes it much more difficult for some groups of people to legally consume pot than others. Calgary city council has done a notably poor job of making sure that the rules surrounding cannabis are fair to all. Add in the fact that there will only be two cannabis retailers open in the city on Oct. 17 — both of them within two kilometres of each other on Macleod Trail in Calgary’s far south — and it feels like the substance isn’t really being made legal at all.

Restrictive post-secondary policies on cannabis can add to the frustrating atmosphere around weed that will only perpetuate its stigmatization. But don’t blame the U of C for their tough stance on pot. Blame the local lawmakers who gave them no other choice.

— Jason HerringGauntlet editorial board

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