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Ottawa universities and colleges prepare for legal cannabis
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Ottawa universities and colleges prepare for legal cannabis

Students returning to Ottawa’s colleges and universities this fall could find that their ability to smoke recreational marijuana on campus may depend on which school they attend.

Ontario will allow anyone over the age of 19 to purchase cannabis once it becomes legal next month, but the provincial government has banned its use in public, restricting anyone who wants to smoke to private homes.

But that won’t necessarily include university residences.

“In residence, students won’t be allowed to possess marijuana,” said David Oladejo, president of the Carleton University Students Association.

Oladejo said the university is still finalizing its policies around marijuana, which are set to be released by the end of the month.

But one thing is clear: recreational cannabis won’t get the same treatment as tobacco.

“Right now, there won’t be designated smoking zones on campus like we have for cigarettes,” he said.

David Oladejo, president of the Carleton University Student Association, says the university plans to ban marijuana everywhere on campus, including on student residences. The student government has been working to ensure the wording of the policy is more educational than restrictive, he said. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

Not everyone is in favour of that approach.

“I don’t really understand where they’re coming from, disallowing it on campus,” said Omar Moustafa, a first-year Carleton student.

Moustafa said he doesn’t smoke, but still feels there’s a disconnect between the university’s policies around cigarettes and marijuana.

“Personally, I think that cigarettes are more harmful,” he said. “So they should be stopping that more than marijuana.”

Different policies across campuses

Carleton’s prospective policy differs from the University of Ottawa, which says students over the age of 19 may be allowed to smoke in their dorm rooms if the province determines they are considered private homes.

The university also participates in the Council of Ontario Universities Task Force, which is studying the effects of cannabis on campuses across Ontario.

La Cité collégiale said smoking marijuana will only be allowed in a specific area of the campus, with the college applying the same guidelines for the drug as it has for alcohol, drugs and medications.

Algonquin College said it is still finalizing its marijuana policies.

Philip Weber is a first-year Carleton University student who’s originally from the Netherlands. He said he’s excited to see how Canadians react when marijuana is legalized in October. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

Back at Carleton, first-year international student Philip Weber is from the Netherlands, where marijuana has been decriminalized for personal use for decades.

“That means it’s less secretive and a bit more open for use, and that people are able to talk about it more with the health risks and also just making sure that there’s good quality,” Weber said.

When you’re on campus, you’re here for one reason — and that’s to get your education.– Erica Scott, parent

Weber doesn’t expect the prohibition of recreational cannabis on campus will necessarily dissuade anyone from using it, since they could easily leave campus to light up.

But at least one parent applauded Carleton’s policy to ban the drug.

“[Students are] here for an education and not to party,” said Erica Scott, who has two children attending university and college in the city.

“So if they want to do that, fine. Off campus is perfect. But when you’re on campus, you’re here for one reason — and that’s to get your education.”

Erica Scott (right) and her daughter Cassidy (left) stand outside a residence building at Carleton University, where Cassidy is heading into her second year. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

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