British Columbia

Pot smoking to be allowed on UBC campus

The University of British Columbia is crafting a policy that will allow cannabis use on campus — keeping in line with its policy on tobacco — once recreational marijuana becomes legal in Canada. But a majority of post-secondary schools seem prepared to stick with smoke-free policies.

65 of 260 university-college campuses have outlawed smoking, vaping or plan to: Canadian Cancer Society report

A UBC draft policy will permit cannabis smoking on campus, restricted to areas where tobacco smoking and vaping are permitted. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

One by one, Canadian universities are coming up with fresh policies to prepare for cannabis legalization on Oct. 17. There's a trend to mirror tobacco policies — which on many campuses means a ban on cannabis smoking or vaping.

At the University of British Columbia, planners appear to be sticking to the trend, but according to a draft policy, that means UBC will allow people to enjoy a toke in large areas at the Vancouver campus, and, in some, so-called smoking gazebos on the Okanagan campus.

"We're a university, so we're really focused on evidence-based decision-making," said Hubert Lai, UBC's university counsel. "The research is suggesting that, actually, behaviour by individuals is not going to change in a material way after decriminalization occurs."

UBC Vancouver rules limit all types of smoking in the so-called health precinct, where hospital and other medical buildings are clustered. Smoking is also forbidden inside all buildings and within eight metres of any doorway on campus.

At residences, cannabis possession is strictly regulated, and although there are designated smoking areas on residence property, no cannabis smoking will be allowed.

However, on the vast campus, officials have left ample space for people who wish to use legal cannabis.

"One of the effects that people have observed — that researchers have observed — is that when you criminalize activity that people are engaging in any way, all you do is drive the behaviour underground," said Lai.

 "That could create unexpected consequences, so we don't want to make poor policy decisions in that way."

'The culture that's already here'

For students, getting a waft of pot at UBC is already a relatively routine experience, and so the news that cannabis will be allowed isn't a major shock.

"I think it makes sense. To put in place any other regulations would go against the culture that's already here," said Joseph Paris, a graduate history student.

"It's like cigarettes. If you don't smoke around doorways and things like that ... I think it's fine," said Paris.

Grace Tadrous, who's in her fifth year of a kinesiology​ degree, said smoking on campus is generally fine, but pot may cross the line.

"I think it's a pretty big campus and it's a lot of outdoors, so you can't really — it doesn't really affect you if people are smoking," said Tadrous.

"I think [cannabis] should be done in a little bit more private areas, not just around where you're trying to learn and have an educational environment," she said.

Cancer society wants smoke-free campuses

The Canadian Cancer Society published a report this month urging campuses across the country to become smoke free — meaning, no tobacco or cannabis.

The report counts 65 of the country's roughly 260 university and college campuses that have outlawed smoking and vaping or have plans to do so.

The report argues that smoke-free policies provide healthier environments, reduce litter and discourage tobacco use among young people.

In B.C., Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Langara College, Douglas College, University of the Fraser Valley and Trinity Western University have gone smoke free, but several institutions, including UBC, have not.

UBC's draft cannabis policy will take effect with legalization, but it will be open to consultation into 2019 and may be subject to change.

With files from Noémie Moukanda

Follow Rafferty Baker on Twitter: @raffertybaker


Rafferty Baker is a video journalist with CBC News, based in Vancouver. You can find his stories on CBC Radio, television, and online at


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