About This Guide

Important Note

This guide is a living document, and is up-to-date as of June 2018. As the federal legislative process for Bill C-45, The Cannabis Act is still underway, the legal requirements and provincial framework in Ontario discussed in this document may change.

This guide explores issues related to cannabis use and provides readers with an overview of health approaches that can reduce the harms and risks associated with it. Any campus professional — whether faculty, academic advisor, counsellor, or student services professional — working with students who use cannabis will be able to refer to the guide for information.

The first section will give you a better understanding of cannabis, the Ontario context, the substance use spectrum, as well as substance use disorders and problematic substance use. Section 2 looks at the reasons why students use or don’t use cannabis, the effects of cannabis use on the brain in adolescents and young adults, the link between cannabis use and mental health, the effects of language and stigma, and strategies that campus professionals can use to reduce harms when directly engaging with students. The final section provides concrete steps for developing a campus-wide cannabis-use framework to reduce harm.

While the focus of this guide is on cannabis use by students, not campus staff or faculty, this is in no way meant to minimize the need to address the broader scope of mental health, substance use, and well-being on campuses, including among faculty and staff.

Each post-secondary institution has unique strengths, circumstances, and needs. For this reason, while the broad areas addressed in this guide are relevant to all institutions, it is not meant to be prescriptive or to serve as legal advice pertaining to cannabis use legislation. As of its writing, the information in this guide is accurate and reflects current research and legislation. However, this information may be subject to change and will be updated accordingly.

Students on Campus

This guide is the result of a collaborative effort between the Centre for Innovation in Campus Mental Health (CICMH), the Provincial System Support Program (PSSP) at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and the Canadian Mental Health Association Ontario Division (CMHA). The writing team consisted of Pearlyn Ng (CICMH), Marija Padjen (CICMH), Sané Dube (CAMH), Jewel Bailey (CAMH), Tamar Meyer (CAMH), Jean Hopkins (CMHA), and Colin McCullough (Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development). Rossana Coriandoli (CAMH) copy edited the guide.

The creation of this guide was inspired by a similar document about cannabis use on campus from Healthy Minds, Healthy Campus and the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research. Special thanks to the writers of Clearing the Air: Lower-Risk Cannabis Use on Campus for their work.

Special appreciation is given to Mavis Fung (Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development), Nelsa Roberto (Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development), Brenda Whiteside (University of Guelph), Dominika Flood (COU), Jean Francois Crépault (CAMH), Chris Mercer (Laurentian University), Ben Bridgstock (Algonquin College), Sophie Helpard (OUSA), Olivia Dagbo (CSA) on our Advisory Committee for their significant contributions to this joint project.

A sincere thank you to the 58 representatives from post-secondary institutions across Ontario who took part in our anonymous needs assessment survey to determine the scope and structure of this guide.

Guide: PDF Version