With cannabis legalization coming up on October 17, the university plans to treat cannabis in the same way that it treats tobacco. This means that, among other things, students will be banned from smoking in residence and from receiving deliveries for online orders.
In an interview with The Varsity, Senior Director for Student Success Heather Kelly said that, like other institutions, U of T would “largely rely on existing policies to respond to the changes for smoking cannabis in residence.”
For instance, residences currently have a zero-tolerance policy for smoking cigarettes indoors.
“The smoking of cannabis will not be any different,” said Kelly. “Students will not be allowed to smoke cannabis in dorms.”
For medical users, Kelly assured that they will continue to make necessary accommodations.
“We’ve always accommodated for medical marijuana. Academic accommodations or any accommodations are individualized in nature. So it really depends on the nature of the request and the residents’ environment, but we have and will continue to make exceptions for students who require marijuana for medical purposes.”
However, the issues will continue to evolve, even after the legalization of cannabis. For smoking outdoors, students are expected to obey federal and provincial legislation, which will allow people to smoke in public places such as parks and sidewalks, but not in indoor common areas.
Outdoor smoking rules would also be very difficult to enforce. In an interview with The Varsity, Sociology Professor Patricia Erickson said that there are “very difficult enforcement issues.”
“It’s probably easier to tie it into tobacco, then try to sort out which drug is being used where.”
Erickson, whose main area of expertise is the cultural and legal normalization of cannabis, also spoke about how legalization could affect campus culture. She said that despite common belief, legalization will not change much in terms of the normalization of cannabis, especially among younger people.
“The law, I think, is now coinciding more with the normalization process rather than the normalization process driving the legal change,” she said. “I would also say be careful, I think, about assuming that use will go up… It depends on age, and sex, and your kind of cultural setting, and so on.”
“I really thought legalization was coming,” said Erickson, speaking about the beginning of her career in the ’70s. “And instead, we’ve gone through decades of very modest proposals about decriminalizing possession and reducing the penalties. There was never a serious proposal put forward.”
Edibles will not be available for legal purchase in Canada as of October 17, so the university is taking more time to come up with an appropriate policy relating to this issue.
“Once there is more information with respect to edibles, we’ll review it, and we will also take a look at our existing policy. However, currently, because the new law does not cover edibles, again, we expect students to obey the law, and so we are only addressing the smoking of cannabis at this time,” noted Kelly.
The university is also planning to educate students on responsible marijuana usage. “Starting with orientation and continuing with our health promotions programming throughout the year, what we are doing is talking to students about safety, understanding their limits, making sure they’re aware of their rights, but also their responsibilities… and I think most importantly where to seek help,” said Kelly.
Particular importance will also be placed on helping students understand how to recognize and respond to situations in which they or someone else is in distress, and how to seek assistance if they believe that cannabis is negatively impacting their or someone else’s academic or personal life.
“Our focus is really about helping students learn about resources available to them.”
— With files from Andy Takagi