by Sarena Johnson
Most Student Affairs offices are bustling with preparations for orientation week. And 2018 presents an added layer: The legalization of cannabis and subsequent conduct protocol around it’s cultivation and consumption on campus. Add to that, schools will need to educate their students on these protocols and will likely want to create opportunities for education around marijuana in general.
Orientation is a great time for post secondary institutions to broadcast important messages – but what messages will they be sending about legalization? Well, that differs substantially. Mount Allison University has posted a cannabis code of conduct on their website that claims it will be altering several other relevant policies such as the smoking ban, the student life and residence life codes of conduct to include marijuana. They’re also hiring a cannabis focused harm reduction educator. However, most post secondary institutions aren’t talking about their plans as of yet. U of Calgary has claimed it has prepared a stand alone cannabis policy but that won’t be released until legalization on October 17th. Despite marijuana becoming “legal” in Canada, regulations on its use are still being filtered through several levels of government and down to the institutional policies of a particular campus. So legalization will look different for different schools.
I had a chance to talk to Bradley Poulos, Ryerson University instructor for the new Business of Cannabis course, aptly named CZEN 420. Poulos shared his perspectives on the industry in general and the rationale behind his course in particular. It’s an entrepreneur focused course that benefits from being responsive to his numerous industry contacts and even boasts an on-site visit. I was also keen to hear what he thought about how legalization will affect life on campus.
Poulos shared that a key consideration is the governmental limits on how cannabis is consumed. For the first year of legalization, marijuana will only be available in flower form, pre rolled joints or oil caplets. These formats will actually aggravate concerns of second hand smoke since they essentially promote the smoking of marijuana while restricting access to other methods of consumption such as edibles, beverages, creams or even dissolvable tongue strips. When these alternative delivery products do become available, there will be fewer people actually smoking pot. Vaporizing could be less harmful in the interim since it’s far less potent than second hand smoke, but institutions might not make that differentiation as of yet.
In the meantime, the current law in Ontario bans smoking in public places. Most post-secondary institutions are on private property, which gives them the privilege of making their own policies. “Most schools will outright prohibit it, but that could lead them to face push back and even challenges in court from medical users.” says Poulos. There is also the consideration of how employers will treat marijuana consumption in the workplace and how recreational and medical usages will be differentiated. Right now it’s a lot of wait and see.
While I’m eager to see how schools deal with cannabis policies and education, there are many more ways this will affect life on campus. The topic of legalization will manifest numerous questions, concerns, challenges and approaches from post secondary educators. Legalization is making us take a look at our resources for mental health and redefine the difference between recreational use and addiction. Residences are reconfiguring what’s acceptable conduct within their walls, be it around smoking or even growing. There is a giant new cannabis education industry and many schools are rolling out programs for cannabis harm reduction education.
These are topics we will explore in this new, ongoing monthly series. Thanks for joining in the introduction. I’m interested to hear what folks are doing for orientation – does cannabis education fit into your planned orientation delivery? Is your institution doing anything to prepare for legalization or is it business as usual? Please respond in the comments below or you can tweet using the hashtag #SAcdn.