Step 2: Developing a Cannabis-Use Framework

Your campus cannabis frameworks should be guided by the following considerations:

  1. The campus culture and context.
    1. Timing of use. For example, there is mounting evidence that specific events are associated with higher rates of student drinking and cannabis use, such as orientation week, Halloween, homecoming, and St. Patrick’s Day.[1]Neighbors, C., Lee, C. M., Lewis, M. A., Fossos, N., & Larimer, M. E. (2007). Are social norms the best predictor of outcomes among heavy-drinking college students?. Journal of studies on alcohol and drugs, 68(4), 556-565.[2]Kilmer, J. R., Walker, D. D., Lee, C. M., Palmer, R. S., Mallett, K. A., Fabiano, P., & Larimer, M. E. (2006). Misperceptions of college student marijuana use: implications for prevention. Journal of studies on alcohol, 67(2), 277-281.[3]Buckner, J. D., Henslee, A. M., & Jeffries, E. R. (2015). Event-specific cannabis use and use-related impairment: the relationship to campus traditions. Journal of studies on alcohol and drugs, 76(2), 190-194.
    2. Prevalence of use. Different campuses and different student populations will have different rates of use. Aside from pre-legalization data from surveys such as the National College Health Assessment, consider using a campus-wide survey to find out the attitudes towards cannabis and usage among students and staff. This information will help inform an education and harm reduction strategy and messaging. In light of the lower prevalence of cannabis use compared to alcohol, messages and placement need to be carefully planned. More targeted messaging, using conversational and motivational approaches, could be used to address those considering use or currently using cannabis in potentially harmful ways.
    3. Identification of champions on campus. Recruiting a member of the campus community who has experience with cannabis use, both positive and negative, and who is trusted by the student population is recommended to deliver education and harm reduction messaging. Messages about safer cannabis use can be disseminated in different settings and through various vehicles, similar to those employed in communications about low-risk drinking.[4]Healthy Minds, Healthy Campuses (2016). Balancing our Thinking around Drinking: Low-Risk Alcohol Use on Campus. Accessed from: https://healthycampuses.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Low-Risk-Drinking-Guide-2016.pdf 
  2. Increasing personal confidence of staff and students to discuss problematic cannabis use.
    1. Using a harm reduction approach. Harm reduction balances control and compassion within a framework of respect for individual rights. The Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines [5]Benedikt Fischer et al.(2017). Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines: A Comprehensive Update of Evidence and Recommendations. American Journal of Public Health 107(8),1-12. can be adapted for students.
    2. Building capacity. Increase the capacity of campus staff to address cannabis use among students. Providing staff, such as faculty and residence advisers, with evidence-informed tools and resources on cannabis will equip them to inform students.
    3. Cultivating a sense of community. Promoting a spirit of openness and exchange is critical to community-building, by nurturing a sense of connectedness and empathy so that students don’t feel alienated and alone.[6]Healthy Minds, Healthy Campuses (2016). Clearing the Air: Lower-Risk Cannabis Use on Campus. Accessed from: https://healthycampuses.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Cannabis-Guide-2016.pdf
  3. The academic and personal development of students.
    1. Providing students with tools to manage stress and mental health challenges. As discussed earlier in this guide, many students report using cannabis to manage their boredom, loneliness, stress, anger, or anxiety. For this reason, they need alternative approaches to manage negative emotions and to communicate about their difficulties.[7]Griffin, K. W., & Botvin, G. J. (2010). Evidence-based interventions for preventing substance use disorders in adolescents. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics, 19(3), 505-526.

Applying the Legislative Framework to Your Campus

Your campus policies related to cannabis use need to align with, and be informed by, federal and provincial cannabis legislation. For a campus cannabis framework to be successful, those who are developing and implementing it will need to engage members of the community (such as students, student associations, faculty, support staff, and the external community) at all stages of the process. Campuses are encouraged to reflect on their mandates and responsibilities and to maximize their opportunities to educate and support their communities.

Some key areas that the campus framework should consider are:

  1. Minimum age
    1. Purchasing, possessing, consuming, sharing, and growing cannabis will be legal for those who are 19 and older in Ontario. This aligns with the province’s alcohol and tobacco age limits.
  2. Possession
    1. For those 19 and older, possession of up to 30 grams of dried cannabis will be legal.
  3. Places of use
      1. The use of cannabis for non-medical purposes will be prohibited in all public places, workplaces, motor vehicles, and watercraft.
      2. Non-medical cannabis use will only be permitted in private residences, including the outdoor space of a home, or in a unit or on a balcony of a multi-unit residence, subject to a building’s rules or a rental lease.
        1. Residences
          1. Individual campuses will be able to decide if on-campus student residences will be considered private residences. If these residences are currently smoke-free, the campus can decide if non-medical cannabis will be permitted. This is consistent with the Smoke-Free Ontario Act 2017, which regulates the smoking of tobacco, vaping and the smoking and vaping of  medical cannabis.
          2. Private landlords may have the right to prohibit the smoking or vaping of cannabis inside their properties, including in common areas of apartment buildings.
          3. If a residence on campus allows consumption of non-medical cannabis, the smoking and vaping of all cannabis (recreational and medical) will still be prohibited in all indoor common areas, including elevators, hallways, parking facilities, party or entertainment rooms, laundry facilities, lobbies, and exercise areas.
          4. Consistent with the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017, the Cannabis Control Act, 2017 does not restrict the smoking and vaping of recreational cannabis in outdoor common areas of multi-unit dwellings, including university and college residences. Individual postsecondary institutions and private landlords could seek independent legal advice on restricting use in these areas
        2.  Workplaces
          1. Workers, including students participating in experiential learning opportunities, are prohibited from consuming cannabis at any site that is a workplace, according to the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
          2. Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, anyone who is performing work when they are unable or unfit to do so safely can be considered a hazard to the workplace, themselves, or others. Employers, supervisors, and other workers are required to address such a danger to protect workplace health and safety.
          3. Campus policy should address how the institution will respond in cases where an employee is believed to be using or is under the influence of cannabis.
          4. Campuses should revise their existing policies on substance use in the workplace to reflect new legislation.
        3. Growing cannabis
          1. The law will permit adults to grow a total of up to four cannabis plants per single residence.
          2. A campus may have numerous residences on its properties where cannabis could be grown legally. As such, it is up to the campus administration to decide if this will be permitted on campus residence dorm rooms and to state in its cannabis policies. Residence gardens are considered to be public spaces.
  1. Enforcement
    1. Campuses need to consider how they can best educate security and student services employees about the new cannabis legislation and related campus policies.
    2. Legal advice should be sought when developing/amending campus cannabis policies.
    3. The Smoke Free Ontario Act, 2017 imposes penalties for vaping cannabis in in a place that is prohibited under the Act (i.e., enclosed public spaces and workplaces, children’s playgrounds, outdoor restaurant and bar patios). These include a fine of up to $1,000 for a first offence and up to $5,000 for subsequent offences.
  2. Retail and distribution
    1. Recreational cannabis will only be sold through the online network of the Ontario Cannabis Store as of October, 2018. Legal private stores are scheduled to begin selling cannabis in 2019, once legislative requirements are put in place.

References   [ + ]

1. Neighbors, C., Lee, C. M., Lewis, M. A., Fossos, N., & Larimer, M. E. (2007). Are social norms the best predictor of outcomes among heavy-drinking college students?. Journal of studies on alcohol and drugs, 68(4), 556-565.
2. Kilmer, J. R., Walker, D. D., Lee, C. M., Palmer, R. S., Mallett, K. A., Fabiano, P., & Larimer, M. E. (2006). Misperceptions of college student marijuana use: implications for prevention. Journal of studies on alcohol, 67(2), 277-281.
3. Buckner, J. D., Henslee, A. M., & Jeffries, E. R. (2015). Event-specific cannabis use and use-related impairment: the relationship to campus traditions. Journal of studies on alcohol and drugs, 76(2), 190-194.
4. Healthy Minds, Healthy Campuses (2016). Balancing our Thinking around Drinking: Low-Risk Alcohol Use on Campus. Accessed from: https://healthycampuses.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Low-Risk-Drinking-Guide-2016.pdf 
5. Benedikt Fischer et al.(2017). Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines: A Comprehensive Update of Evidence and Recommendations. American Journal of Public Health 107(8),1-12.
6. Healthy Minds, Healthy Campuses (2016). Clearing the Air: Lower-Risk Cannabis Use on Campus. Accessed from: https://healthycampuses.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Cannabis-Guide-2016.pdf
7. Griffin, K. W., & Botvin, G. J. (2010). Evidence-based interventions for preventing substance use disorders in adolescents. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics, 19(3), 505-526.
Guide: PDF Version