EDMONTON—It’s not high school, but you could soon get high at university, just not anywhere you like.
Students at the University of Alberta will not be able to smoke everywhere on campus once cannabis becomes legal in Canada on Oct. 17.
A new proposal introduced by the university on Tuesday prohibits students from growing or smoking marijuana in student residences, and for a year also prevents them from smoking pot at events once cannabis is legal.
However, they are allowed to keep weed in their rooms.
Adam Brown, vice-president external for the University of Alberta Students’ Union, says he finds the recommendations “reasonable.”
“I would say we are tentatively supportive of the university’s plan,” he said.
“It does allow the consumption of cannabis on campus, and (it’s) looking like it’s going to be combined with tobacco smoking areas, so we think that’s very reasonable.”
In the report, the university does say that consumption locations will be 10 metres from any non-smoker, building entrances and open windows, and 30 metres from sports facilities and children’s events and amenities.
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These rules are in line with the city’s proposed plan for smoking cannabis and cigarettes in public. The city is to make a final decision on these rules at its council meeting Tuesday.
Brown said when he was campaigning for his position at the students’ union over the winter, he spoke to “hundreds of students” about cannabis legalization and two-thirds of them wanted weed to be OK on campus.
However, he added that the majority of students did not want to “walk through puffs of smoke” while going to class.
“What I can see in the report is that these (consumption areas) would be a certain (number of) metres from some students, so that was one of the largest concerns for students,” he said.
He added that some students were also concerned about the processes they would go through for cannabis infractions.
“That (students) would be treated fairly if they were accused of being high during exams … so any sort of appeal process could be done in a fair way. Which I’m looking forward to seeing how the university would be handling that,” he said.
According to the report, of the more than 2,500 students who were consulted, 42.7 per cent wanted cannabis to be treated like alcohol use on campus, and only 29.2 per cent wanted it to follow the same rules as cigarettes and vaping.
Although specific locations have not been designated for consumption of cannabis, Brown believes the university would follow the same rules as cigarettes.
“I think the students would really like these locations to be fairly accessible throughout the year so students don’t have to stand in -40 C weather if they want to consume cannabis,” he said.
“One smoking zone is right outside the Cameron Library, but it stays in the 10-metre distance and it follows the appropriate regulations … I would expect those zones to be like that.”
Regarding smoking at events, Brown says he understands the university’s decision to hold off for a year as the outcomes of legalization can be very unpredictable. However, he hopes the university does revisit the issue.
“I hope after a year, the university would review that rule in a very productive manner and make sure that the student voice is accounted for in those consultations,” he said.
“But I can definitely see a day when students will be able to consume cannabis at events just like alcohol.”
With the proposal out, Brown says he is looking forward to the concrete plans the university will lay out in relation to cannabis legalization.
“Making sure students are safe and are consuming responsibly is very important for the students’ union, so we’ll be keeping an eye on it throughout the years as the legalization process happens,” he said.
Kashmala Fida is an Edmonton-based reporter covering City Hall and diversity. Follow her on Twitter: @KashFida
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