College and university students and their parents are likely wondering how the legalization of cannabis will affect campus life. Cannabis will be legal as of October 17, 2018 in Canada and, even if there are no cannabis outlets on campus, it doesn’t take a lot of marketing ingenuity to decide that an outlet close to campus could be very profitable. In fact, one hopes that post-secondary institutions are already preparing for this reality.

As a parent or student, or even as a concerned consumer, it is good to know the federal regulations regarding cannabis. These have been summarized by the Government of Canada for the federal regulations but each province will have their own concerns and regulations since the sale and distribution of cannabis will be left to the provinces.

Colleges and universities across Canada have begun to consider the implications for their students when cannabis is legalized. This article from MacLean’s suggests that most schools are wisely going to take an educational approach to legalization, ensuring that students have access to up-to-date information. There will likely also be provision for harm reduction and public safety strategies. This means that most campuses are expecting higher use of cannabis once it is legal and are ensuring that intoxicated students get access to assistance. Support will be available for students who are concerned about becoming addicted to cannabis.

Another problem that will have to be confronted is that one of the most common methods of cannabis ingestion, smoking, is likely to be a concern in campus residences, many of which are now smoke free, even when a campus itself is not smoke-free. Will smoking cannabis be prohibited? Will there be designated cannabis smoking areas on campus? The legalization of cannabis will be another consideration when a campus considers going completely smoke-free.

I hope that colleges and universities will marshal their considerable ability at fostering intelligent discussions to hold debates and salons with students as a part of their educational approach to preparing for cannabis legalization. These kinds of discussions, facilitated by knowledgeable resource persons, will be beneficial for the institutions themselves. However, depending on the level of discourse, some knowledge might emerge that would inform society at large about better approaches to the legalization of cannabis.

Canadian youth have consumed more cannabis than their counterparts around the world even before cannabis was legalized. It will be interesting to see whether even more will begin to use cannabis once it is legal.

Here is what I would want to know about the impact of legal cannabis on postsecondary campuses:
1. Will cannabis be sold, in any form, on campus?
2. Will it be possible to smoke cannabis in residences and other buildings? If not, will the consequences be clearly described to students? If so, will there be designated smoking areas within campus buildings?
3. Will there be anywhere that an intoxicated student can go for assistance? If not, where can they find the information on what to do?
4. Where can I find details of any education that will be provided to students and/or parents about this institution’s approach to cannabis legalization?
5. Will there be any special events, such as debates or salons, to explore the impact of cannabis legalization on students and this institution?
6. Is this institution participating in any research on cannabis or cannabis legalization?

Despite its impact on the developing brain and the possible negative consequences I am, in general, in favour of cannabis legalization. I feel regulation will assist in keeping cannabis out of the hands of teens. More importantly, I feel that the more open dialogue that legalization can foster will have a positive public health effect. In speaking with other mental health care providers, we are cautiously optimistic.

While I don’t always agree with Sebastien Marincolo, the freelance writer and consultant who wrote High: Insights on Marijuana, I think this statement is correct:

“The legalization of marijuana is not a dangerous experiment – the prohibition is the experiment, and it has failed dramatically, with millions of victims all around the world.” Sebastian Marincolo

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