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Cannabis on campus: how B.C. universities plan to deal with the coming legalization of pot

Cannabis smoking moves closer to university campuses as the legalization of marijuana is set for this summer. People won't be as limited to smoking at 420 rallies like this woman at Parliament hill in Ottawa.
Cannabis smoking moves closer to university campuses as the legalization of marijuana is set for this summer. People won't be as limited to smoking at 420 rallies like this woman at Parliament hill in Ottawa. Justin Tang/THE CANADIAN PRESS

University and college campuses across B.C. will need to re-evaluate their smoking policies in preparation for the proposed legalization of marijuana set for July 1, 2018.

Smoking regulations vary from campus to campus and critics are concerned that school policies in B.C. will not be strict enough.

At the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), the Assistant Director of Safety, Security and Emergency Management Adrian Hingston says that the school has yet to set any policy changes in motion to prepare for pot on campus.

“The policy that we have right now simply indicates the location where people can smoke, but there are other considerations that we have to take into account… how the use of cannabis impacts the environment, particularly in that we have some pretty heavy duty industrial trades on campus.”

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The degree of restriction when it comes to smoking on campus varies greatly on B.C. university and college campuses. Emily Carr University and Trinity Western University are the only institutions in the province that have a completely smoke-free campus,  the University of British Columbia and University of Victoria restrict smoking to designated smoking areas, and BCIT and Simon Fraser University (SFU) only ask smokers to keep a certain distance from entrances, windows and covered walkways. For SFU that distance is 10 metres, and at BCIT it is 6.1 metres.

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As legal cannabis comes closer to becoming a reality, the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) is advocating for stricter smoking regulations.

BCIT asks students to keep a 6.1-metre distance from buildings in accordance with City of Vancouver bylaws.

The CCS says such policies fall short because particulate matter from one burning cigarette can travel as far as 9 metres.

“In comparison to many municipalities across the province university and college campuses are actually falling short in their tobacco control policies…We would encourage that university and college campuses have the same regulations… wherever smoking is prohibited that smoking cannabis is also prohibited,” said CCS Advocacy Lead Jenny Byford.

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