U of A working group releases cannabis policy recommendations

The recommendations include the prohibition of the smoking or growing of cannabis in residences

The University of Alberta’s cannabis working group has just released 19 recommendations to the administration, including the creation of designated smoking sites on campus.

On October 17, Canada will become the second nation in the world to legalize recreational cannabis use. The working group surveyed students, administration, and faculty to develop a series of recommendations for the development of a cannabis use policy on campus. However, how the university administration will utilize these recommendations will depend largely on whether Edmonton city council chooses to limit cannabis use in public.

Published earlier this month, the working group’s report highlights 19 recommendations the university should follow to minimize harm. While the creation of designated smoking sites is recommended in the report, the locations of these sites have yet to be determined.

One recommendation includes the prohibition of growing, smoking, or vaping cannabis in residences. The report states that “students in residence growing and or smoking cannabis can cause odours that make areas unlivable” for other students.

Use of cannabis in residence may also cause increased fire risk and smoke damage, while the growth of cannabis may introduce humidity and mould problems due to its extensive water requirement.

Other major recommendations include banning any form of cannabis consumption at university and student group events, on or off-campus, for at least the first year, as well as prohibiting sales, advertising, branding, and sponsorship of cannabis products on campus.

The report also recommends the university “recognize that cannabis is not a benign substance” and encourages the development of harm reduction strategies for both staff and students. Potential strategies include evidence-based education programs on cannabis use, as well as developing support systems for individuals with substance use problems.

The policy group is currently in the process of developing a workplace impairment policy to educate university staff on how to “recognize, report, and respond when [cannabis] impairment is suspected.”

In a previous interview with The Gateway during the development of the recommendations, co-chair of the cannabis working group Andrew Leitch said many of the decisions came down to ensuring a safe working and learning environment for both cannabis users and non-users.

“Harm reduction really means having good information about the risks,” Leitch said. “Whatever [people] decide to do with cannabis, we want them to make responsible and informed decisions to prevent harm.”

Many of the recommendations were based on perspectives gathered from a town hall and a large-scale community survey conducted in March. Most respondents supported the idea of limiting cannabis use to specific locations and were against the sale of cannabis on university property.

“I would support and expect tobacco smoking and vaping to be equally limited,” one academic teaching staff said in the survey. “They should be considered equally from a policy point of view and should not be treated differently.”

“I think that if the university is willing to support RATT and Dewey’s selling liquor they do not have the right to ban my use of cannabis on campus,” said an undergraduate student. “Assuming it’s used responsibly.”

The U of A is in a similar position as other Alberta post-secondary institutions, including the University of Calgary and MacEwan University. Both of which are awaiting city guidelines to be developed prior to establishing campus policies.

City council is expected to decide on whether to prohibit cannabis use in public prior to legalization on October 17. The university is set to further discuss these recommendations at General Faculties Council on September 24.

Calvin Chan

Calvin Chan is a cell biology student with a keen interest in science writing.

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