The Quebec CRA makes it difficult for people to smoke cannabis on university grounds
I believe the Quebec government’s repressive laws introduce an outdated form of prohibition targeting students who are disabled, part of a visible minority or self-medicating, among other vulnerable demographics.
In the email sent to the student body on Oct.10, Concordia addressed cannabis legalization and introduced policies regarding campus smoking and drugs-on-campus regulations. The message confirmed that while smoking tobacco and vaping are permitted on campus, “as long as it occurs at least nine metres from building entrances, windows and air intakes,” the school will maintain a ban on cannabis smoking “at all times, even beyond the nine-metre perimeter.”
In the FAQ section of the university’s website, Concordia’s response to whether students can smoke cannabis in their residence is, “No. According to the Cannabis Regulation Act, the smoking/vaping of cannabis is prohibited on all university grounds.” To the dedicated cannabis consumers, I’d just like to say: don’t be so quick to brush off these new rules. This “zero tolerance” policy comes with steep consequences for a first offense.
The email specified that the consequences for breaching the ban include a fine of up to $2,250 issued by Montreal police, or disciplinary action enforced by the university. These stern regulations are based on the provincial Cannabis Regulation Act (CRA), which prohibits smoking, vaping or otherwise ingesting cannabis on university grounds.
The CRA’s regulations on cannabis far surpass the limitations imposed on alcohol and tobacco use on campus, since there are bars and designated smoking areas on university grounds. These same regulations apply to medical cannabis, according to the CRA. Ultimately, the CRA leaves medicinal cannabis users vulnerable to discrimination.
I believe all students are entitled to consume their medication. It is completely inappropriate that our provincial government doesn’t protect disabled students who rely on cannabis to maintain their health. By banning all cannabis use on campus, medicinal users are forced to resort to smoking in public. Cannabis still carries heavy social stigma, so this option leaves medicinal users vulnerable to public opinion. And what about people who use cannabis for medical purposes but who don’t have a prescription? Don’t these individuals have a right to take their medicine as needed? The answer to these questions is simple: the school should be allowed to provide a designated cannabis consumption area.
I am writing this as an inquiry into the logic behind Quebec’s laws. The restrictions outlined by the CRA completely abandon logical guidelines conducive to a safe and healthy learning environment, as outlined by the Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy in their evidence-based literature on drug education and policy reform, called the Cannabis Toolkit. By prohibiting smoking and vaping, the Quebec government is contributing to a misinformation campaign, where the harm-reduction alternative, vaping, is used alongside smoking cannabis.
We need designated smoking areas on campus so recreational cannabis consumers can safely ingest without the threat of social consequences, and so medicinal cannabis consumers can take their medication discreetly.
We need proper cannabis education at Concordia. We need a commitment from Concordia to offer workshops, lectures, and other information sessions to help educate the student body on the pros and cons of cannabis, as well as practical harm-reduction and safety measures. We also need disinformation campaigns from the Quebec government, such as the hand-in-hand use of the terms smoking and vaping, to end. We need evidence-based policy reform to Quebec’s failed CRA. Studies show that prohibition doesn’t limit cannabis consumption, it only increases risks associated with it.
Finally, we need Good Samaritan policy reform to protect students who struggle with drug addiction or who have drug-induced health issues that require medical attention on campus. Through my own research, I couldn’t find a policy that protects students who experience health emergencies for drug-related illnesses at school. If this is the case, students need access to health services for all health-related emergencies, and to do this, they need to know that receiving help will not cost them their degree or steep fines, which a Good Samaritan policy would ensure.
I’m not alone in feeling disappointed with Quebec’s handling of cannabis legalization. With that said, it’s quite likely many fellow students disagree with me. If you feel you’ve been affected, either positively or negatively, by Quebec’s controversial cannabis policy, please do not hesitate to reach out—I would love to talk more.
Graphic by @spooky_soda