Students at Red Deer College will likely have zero or limited options for consuming cannabis on campus when it becomes legal October 17.
Last week, The City of Red Deer implemented a city-wide ban on public consumption, which applies to the college.
Inspections and Licensing Manager Erin Stuart says, "Within residences, the bylaw allows for consumption, however it would be at the discretion of the college and what they want to permit."
Residences fall under the definition of 'private living accommodation' in The City's amended Smoke Free Bylaw. Under The City's ban, consumption is only allowed in private residences, though landlords and property owners can prohibit it as well.
"The basis of all our decisions is student safety," says RDC President and CEO Joel Ward. "We use phrases like 'fit to work, fit to learn' or 'safe to work, safe to learn.' We have trade shops and impairment is a big issue, so we will take into consideration our student safety first and foremost when we make that decision."
Ward says his research suggests most university and college campuses across the country are going cannabis free.
In Quebec, provincial legislation prohibits the smoking of cannabis on any campus. McGill University in Montreal has banned consumption entirely.
As of Aug. 1, the University of Regina has banned smoking of cannabis or tobacco on or in any school property. At Carleton University in Ottawa, consumption of cannabis will also be prohibited, “as it is considered a public place and a workplace,” it says on the school’s website.
Though he agrees with Ward’s mantra, Students’ Association President Chaise Combs believes students are adults who should be able to make their own decisions.
“It’s important to remember that students live here, this is their home, and it is a legal substance. An adult should be able to exercise their right to alter their own consciousness if they choose to,” he says, calling city council’s decision to prohibit public consumption both ‘surprising’ and ‘unnecessarily reactionary.’
Last March, the SA placed three digital survey stations around the college which asked students how likely they would be to support designated cannabis consumption areas on campus.
Of the 1,156 responses, 58 per cent said ‘very likely’ while another six per cent stated ‘somewhat likely.’ Thirty-two per cent said ‘very unlikely,’ while four per cent answered ‘somewhat unlikely.’
“From a harm reduction perspective, the best thing to do for people, if The City or whomever is concerned about substance abuse issues, is to give people a safe place to do it, moderate that, regulate it and make sure services are available if someone does suffer from any sort of substance abuse or mental health issues,” Combs says. “Pushing it into the dark is the most dangerous thing to do.”
The college hopes to form a policy around consumption in residences prior to legalization.
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