As Canada legalizes marijuana, Canadian colleges forced to rethink smoking policies

In June 2018, Canada became the second nation in the world to legalize marijuana for both medicinal and recreational use.   The legislative move attracted global attention when Russia President Vladimir Putin blasted the Canadian Parliament for allegedly violating international law.  But Canada’s Progressive Conservative majority is not backing down.  Just this week, government officials requested that all colleges and universities in Canada revise and update their related on-campus smoking policies to include newly legalized weed.

According to CTV News, the anticipated rollout date of the new law is currently October 17.  As a result, these academic institutions have only about two weeks to complete their policies reviews.  Some colleges like Memorial University in Newfoundland and Douglas College in British Columbia already have smoke-free policies in place where marijuana – legal or not - will automatically be added to the ban campus-wide. Other smoke-free institutions include Dalhousie University in Halifax and McMaster University in Ontario.

Academic campuses without currently active non-smoking policies will theoretically be forced to also allow the smoking of cannabis in all areas where smoking is allowed.  That is, unless they create entirely new anti-tobacco, anti-marijuana policies by the October 17 deadline. 

Still minor confusion over Canadian marijuana-smoking laws

The University of Toronto currently prohibits smoking in publicly accessible buildings, classrooms, as well as dormitories deemed as non-smoking residences.  Therefore, marijuana smoking will also be banned in these spaces while being allowed in designated areas where smoking tobacco is currently allowed.  This policy implies that students and faculty might find themselves walking to class while gaining a whiff of some sweet-smelling cannabis strain wafting through the outdoor air. 

"Under Ontario's Cannabis Act, use of cannabis will be banned in all workplaces and public spaces. At U of T, that includes offices, classrooms, libraries, athletic facilities, and campus grounds."
- University of Toronto spokesperson Heather Kenny, U of T's via HuffPost Canada

However, a bit of confusion may be brewing in the administrative offices of Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ontario. The growing or smoking of any substance is already banned in all public buildings and all dormitory residences.  In theory, that only leaves outdoor spaces, and the college already limits outdoor smoking access through a policy requiring smoking-designated signage.

Before the new weed laws were passed, the administration of Mohawk College was planning to go totally smoke-free once the provincial regulations were updated to would allow it.  A spokesperson for the college, Jay Robb, is requesting that Ontario officials deem the entire campus as a public space, which would therefore mean that the smoking of either tobacco or marijuana would essentially become illegal for all academic institution in the Ontario automatically.

Related Article:  Canada becomes 2nd nation in the world to legalize marijuana in violation of international law

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