Legal recreational weed is coming soon, and universities and colleges across Canada are mapping out what the changes will mean for students.

Tim Harlick, a policy maker at Mount Royal University, outlined new smoking policies on March 28, at a cannabis panel at Wyckham House Student Centre. He was joined by minister of justice, Kathleen Ganley; director of residence services, Mark Keller; and MRU health promotion specialist Laura Henderson.

What students should know

Student questions indicated they are confused about what they can and cannot do legally with respect to recreational cannabis use.

1. You can technically show up to class high, but …

“If a student is high in class, it doesn’t necessarily mean or constitute misconduct,” MRU policy specialist Tim Harlick told the crowd of about 100 students. Although Harlick reminded students that if being high effects their behaviour and becomes an issue, professors or security have the right to remove any student, as they do now. Harlick added that any behavioural issues on campus, whether student or employee, can trigger action by the university.

2. You can’t buy weed on campus

The provincial legislation forbids the sale and advertisement of tobacco and smoking-related products on all university campuses in Alberta. So students wishing to purchase cannabis will have to buy it elsewhere.

“The Government of Alberta has also established that co-location of cannabis products will not be permitted with pharmaceuticals, tobacco or alcohol,” according to the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission.

However, the justice minister told the crowd that if a retail cannabis store is separate from any other business, it can operate in the vicinity of businesses that sell alcohol and tobacco.

“As long as you have separate shipping and receiving and separate corporations, they can be near each other, but you can’t actually do it in the same location,” Ganley said.

3. Don’t light up in residence 

Mark Keller, director of residence services for MRU, highlighted that existing rules prohibiting indoor smoking in residence properties apply to cannabis as well.

“For us in residence, given that we’re attached to the smoking policy that the university has put together, we don’t see a lot changing there as long as those people are following the guidelines that have been set forth,” Keller said.

“The expectation is that you’re using the designated smoking areas. In residence that means you’re outside and at least 10 feet away from doors and windows, fresh air intakes,” he added.

4. You can’t smoke anywhere in the buildings 

As with other tobacco products, smoking cannabis indoors anywhere on campus is not allowed.

“You’re not smoking anything inside. That covers all of campus. There’s no indoor smoking,” Keller stated.

Harlick added there will be designated cannabis smoking areas on campus, as outlined in the proposed new MRU smoking policies.

j photo 2Cannabis use among students is expected to rise initially after legalization occurs. According to Mark Keller, director of residence services at Mount Royal University, there will likely be more cannabis use as people try and understand if cannabis is right for them. Photo by Flickr user Tanjila Ahmed.

5. If you’re not 18, using cannabis is still a no-go 

The provincial government says it will continue to keep drugs and alcohol out of the hands of anyone under 18. Some students arriving in first year may have to wait a semester before they are of legal age.

While Ganley said that legal adults are capable of making informed decisions regarding their health and safety, cannabis and alcohol have effects on young people for a significant amount of time beyond the age of 18.

“There is a lot of research that says that cannabis continues to have an impact on the developing brain until the age of 25,” Ganley said, “Interestingly, so does alcohol.”

6. The campus pharmacy isn’t set up to fill your prescription

At the moment, it is against the policy of MRU’s pharmacy to prescribe medical cannabis to students. Laura Henderson, health promotion specialist at MRU, was not able to comment on whether MRU physicians in wellness services would prescribe cannabis to students in the future.

“If we change policies around that, we will certainly make that known to students,” she said.

7. Some things are still up in the air

Despite the provincial government’s best efforts to make cannabis consumption legal in public places, the City of Calgary has passed a new bylaw prohibiting non-medical cannabis use in public within the city. This goes against the provincial government’s policy of making the legal and safe consumption of cannabis accessible to as many adults as possible. 

Editor: Mackenzie Jaquish | 

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