Calgary·Q&A

University of Lethbridge to allow weed use on campus

Recreational cannabis will be the law of the land in just weeks, and while some Alberta cities and schools are banning its public consumption, one southern Alberta university is saying OK to lighting up on campus — with some conditions, of course.

5 designated areas will be available, along with a focus on health education

The University of Lethbridge is setting its own agenda, allowing pot smoking in five designated areas once it's legal. (Thomas Samson-AFP-Getty Images/University of Lethbridge)

Recreational cannabis will be the law of the land in just weeks, and while some Alberta cities and schools are banning its public consumption, one southern Alberta university is saying OK to lighting up on campus — with some conditions, of course.

The University of Lethbridge is setting its own agenda, allowing pot smoking in five designated areas.

The executive director of student services, Mark Slomp, talks about the new policy and how it came to be with The Homestretch.

This interview has been edited and paraphrased for clarity and length. You can listen to the complete interview here.

Mark Slomp is the executive director of student services at the University of Lethbridge. (Submitted by Mark Slomp)

Q: Tell us about the new policy?

A: Broadly speaking, we are permitting cannabis use in five designated areas on campus, but with no smoking or vaping indoors.

Q: How did you come up with those designated areas?

A: Consultation began well over a year ago and a large group, the facilities folks, helped us using the federal guidelines about where locations could exist while looking at what made sense on our campus.

Q: Some other schools have banned its public use on campus. Why did you decide to allow it?

A: Every institution has their own context when they look at policy. We looked at issues such as the fact that we have residences here and coulees and long grasses on the boundaries of our campus, so we want to prevent driving students into those areas.

We decided enforcement would be difficult as well when it becomes legal so we favoured education as opposed to enforcement.

Q: What does that education look like?

A: It's part of health education, including new student orientations, which cover health policy, resources, campaigns.

We have an addictions and mental health outreach worker, information on digital signage and lots of different ways we take a health promotion stance on campus.

Q: Who are the stakeholders you talked to?

A: Student groups, people in the legal profession, Alberta Health Services, and our large working group included people from counselling, our health centre, faculty, staff, facilities and campus safety.

Q: What kind of reaction have you had since the release of this policy?

A: We've had a positive reaction.

People see it as a reasonable approach. We took a long time to develop it and consulted area experts and a large stakeholder group so we felt confident.

Q: How will you enforce those five locations?

A: We may have to make additional adjustments but we felt this was the best approach. We have other policies that work with this one and similar limitations with cigarette smoking. We will see how it goes.

Q: Are you concerned about an increase in use once it's legal?

A: We know students are already using cannabis, so it's not a new issue.

We've been managing it already for some time. We know from usage data and surveys there are relatively high rates of consumption already.

Q: When might you update the policy based on new information?

A: Policies are living documents.

We will consider changes as needed. Something that could change is the city of Lethbridge has decided not to ban it, taking a wait-and-see approach.

We will stay in step with other federal, provincial and municipal legislation.

With files from The Homestretch.

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