Still Canada’s Green University?

James Eckstein | OTE Board Chair

With Canada’s legalization of recreational cannabis use on October 17, many local students were disappointed with how UNBC would be applying this law to their current Smoke and Vape Free Places Policy. Cannabis will not be allowed to be smoked at all on campus, not even in designated smoking areas. This policy does not provide a specific reason as to why cannabis is not allowed to be smoked in these areas, except that it helps in “providing a safe and healthy, smoke and vape free environment, for students, faculty, staff and visitors.” However, students will still be allowed to carry cannabis on them, up to 30 grams in dry form or 450 grams in edible form. These edibles can be consumed on campus, but like the rest of Canada, the sale of edibles is still illegal. How does UNBC’s cannabis policy compare to other major universities across British Columbia? And what about the larger universities in Canada?

UNBC joins the ranks of the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Thompson Rivers University, and Simon Fraser Vancouver and Simon Fraser Surrey, in which the smoking of cannabis is outright banned everywhere on campus. BCIT’s Cannabis Policy goes into the most depth as to why their decision was to outright ban smoking cannabis anywhere on campus, stating it “can have serious adverse effects” and could cause potential risk “due to the safety sensitive nature of many programs.” Unlike most other universities in BC, BCIT does not allow for the consumption of edibles, making it only legal to carry cannabis on campus. The Université de Montreal has the same policy as BCIT, where both the smoking of cannabis and the consumption of edibles are banned.

Many universities in British Columbia have taken a middle of the road approach with their Cannabis policies, allowing for it to be smoked on campus but only in specific predetermined locations. These locations take a variety of forms. At the University of British Columbia Okanagan, the use of cannabis is permitted in designated smoking gazebos around campus. The University of Victoria has two specially marked benches with green stripes that designate it as a cannabis smoking area.

The University of British Columbia allows full usage of cannabis, but only if it is smoked at least eight meters away from doorways and entrances to the university. This policy is very similar to York University in Toronto, except in the latter, the minimum distance away from the doorways and entrances must be nine meters. It is important to note that university cannabis policies have the potential to change at any given time. This means that there could be a future in which smoking cannabis at UNBC is treated the same as tobacco, but until then the debate is now up as to whether UNBC is still Canada’s “green” university.