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Legal pot and the campus

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Canadian post-secondary schools, including NAIT, are looking to blaze the trail in determining best practices for cannabis on campuses once it is legalized later this year. The process of crafting campus regulations in response to new legislation began last semester.

The federal government legalizing marijuana is forcing NAIT, and many other post-secondary institutions in Canada, to begin creating guidelines based on laws that have yet to be established. NAIT’s Director of Student Well-Being and Community, Clint Galloway, says due to marijuana being legal in certain states, but not federally, the substance is not allowed on most university campuses in the United States. This leaves Canadian schools with little reference on how to deal with this new issue.

“We’re looking at what other schools are [planning on] doing, seeing what best practices are out there … we’re currently involved with other institutions that are looking at the same thing, and then we have our own NAIT response group to review specific suggestions that will impact our campus,” said Galloway. “Each school must look at what’s best for them but we’re all communicating well … because best practices are best to be shared.”

While rules must be in place by the legalization date, Galloway is confident that getting the specifics correct will not be difficult, but changes will need to made as time passes.

“There will definitely be a learning curve and although we have certain lenses now … that might change over time. Down the road, things might change because of new information or new science [on the effects of marijuana],” Galloway stated.

The main concern in drafting guidelines for cannabis use on campus will be based on NAIT’s unique position as a trades-school. “As a polytechnic … we have certain lab spaces and courses that have some definitely significant safety concerns,” said Galloway. Tyson Chizma, a NAIT business student, believes a governing rule across all programs is not how the polytechnic should go about making regulations.

“I think there is a safety concern for the hands-on courses … the head of each program should determine whether there is risk involved and set their guidelines based around that. Business, as an example, is for the most part lectures and workbook sessions. I believe this is a program where cannabis use will not put any risk on students,” said Chizma.

“It [smoking marijuana] should be allowed on campus as long as it’s in a designated smoking area … we have alcohol and cigarettes and all other drugs like that … no one’s gonna stop you from having a few drinks before class, so how will it be any different from you smoking a joint and going to class,” Chizma stated. As the entire country works towards a mostly-unified approach to the issue, Galloway believes institutions like NAIT will be frontrunners in establishing best practices for recreational marijuana use.

“A lot of different areas [businesses, government] will be affected, so I think a lot of folks will be looking to postsecondary and what we’re doing, before making changes or amendments to what they’re doing,” he said.

“Ultimately, we want to make sure our campus has a safe learning, and working environment for all students and staff … but we haven’t come to a decision on the recreational use of marijuana. Again, it’s recreational use,” Galloway remarked.

Galloway says that information on regulation will be Shared with the NAIT community as it surfaces.

– Jory Proft

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