Photo by Mariah Wilson

U of C keeping higher education sober with Cannabis Policy

By Jason Herring, September 24 2018 —

Despite the impending Oct. 17 legalization of cannabis across Canada, students at the University of Calgary will have to venture off-campus to light up a legal joint.

The U of C unveiled its stand-alone Cannabis Policy on Sept. 24, but the policy doesn’t come into effect until Oct. 17. Linda Dalgetty, the U of C’s vice-president finance and services, says the policy reiterates rules put in place by the City of Calgary’s bylaws — meaning that students will be prohibited from using cannabis recreationally on campus.

“In terms of the policy, we have followed the municipal bylaw and the policy states there is no recreational cannabis consumption on campus,” Dalgetty said.

Cannabis legalization requires legislation from the federal, provincial and municipal levels of government. While Canada and Alberta are responsible for big-picture rules spanning from criminal offences and taxation to retail models and home cultivation, municipalities like Calgary are responsible for more granular elements of legalization.

Calgary’s legislation details that consumption of cannabis in any form will be illegal in public places. The U of C’s policy reinstates that the rule applies on campus as well. Selling or growing cannabis is similarly prohibited.

Medicinal use on campus will continue be accommodated, in accordance with Alberta Human Rights Act, while the U of C plans to wait for further legislation by the city and province before writing policy governing the use of edibles.

While the policy notes that violations may result in “penalties or discipline” in accordance with other U of C policies, Dalgetty says there won’t be punishment for students found consuming pot on campus.

“If people are smoking cannabis, they will be asked to put out the joint, because it’s not legal on our campus,” she said. “We’re hoping that, as they do on a regular basis with the rest of our policies, our students, staff and faculty and our visitors will comply with the policy.”

Students also won’t be able to consume cannabis within their residence units, a decision Dalgetty says the U of C made in accordance with existing rules forbidding smoking. This also falls in line with city bylaws, which allow rental properties to forbid cannabis use.

“The residences are on campus and as landlord we’ve decided to follow an on-campus policy for residents,” Dalgetty said. “As you’re aware, we already have a non-smoking policy for residents and we feel that that’s applicable.”

The U of C is also implementing some harm reduction measures in advance of legalization, including a modification to the Post-Alcohol Support Space. The Cascade Hall space, which provides medical attention to intoxicated students on Thursday nights and special occasions, will expand to treat those in need of treatment who have consumed cannabis.

The space is anonymous and students aren’t disciplined for using it, something that U of C senior director of student wellness Debbie Bruckner hopes will aid harm reduction.

“Our belief that anyone seeking emergency medical assistance for use of a substance will not face repercussions for seeking that assistance,” Bruckner said.

“We don’t take last names, we don’t record the particulars of the individuals because we care about them being safe and well,” added Dalgetty.

Bruckner said harm reduction extended to other on-campus programming.

“Some of the programs we’ve had have been open discussions, research forums and one-on-one appointments,” she said.

U of C Students’ Union vice-president operations and finance Kevin Dang was among members of the Cannabis Working Group, a body that helped develop the Cannabis Policy. He said the SU’s main role was in advocating for community engagement and harm reduction.

“We really tried to approach this with a harm reduction approach in mind,” Dang said. “And of course, we wanted to ensure the university was flexible and was able to consult students and other stakeholders on campus during the process because it is a huge change.”

Overall, there’s one thing Dalgetty and the U of C want to make sure students know about smoking pot on campus: don’t do it.

“We have a municipal bylaw. We are following the municipal bylaw,” she said. “The bottom line is, there is no acceptable place or space on campus to consume recreational cannabis.”

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