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Tobacco, cannabis smoking ban considered for U of G campus

The proposed new policy will also ban deliveries of cannabis on campus
20180420 420 Johnson Green KA 02
A man with a University of Guelph hoodie placed marijuana into the bowl of a bong during a 420 event held April 20, 2018 at Johnston Green. Kenneth Armstrong/GuelphToday

A comprehensive policy banning the smoking of tobacco and marijuana on campus is being considered by University of Guelph and could be in place by the end of the year.

Although not finalized, the university is following the lead of McMaster University, which banned all smoking on campus last year, said Don O’Leary, U of G vice-president.

“We are still in the discussion stage. There is a lot of support for this and a lot of understanding on why we are doing this,” said O’Leary.

A ban of smoking on campus has been considered in the past and pre-date the federal government’s plan to legalize cannabis for personal consumption this fall. 

“The campus is, in a lot of ways, non smoking now — you’re not allowed to smoke in any of our buildings, you have to be a certain distance away from entrances, we don’t sell tobacco on campus — so there’s lots of restriction on tobacco already,” notes O’Leary.

The proposed new policy will also include a ban on vaping, as well as the delivery of cannabis on campus.

“We don’t permit the delivery of alcohol now,” said O’Leary. “We won’t permit the delivery of marijuana on campus, either.” 

O’Leary is unsure of how the proposed policy will address the use of cannabis in its edible form.

“That’s going to be a different issue that we’re going to have to deal with,” said O’Leary.

The proposed policy will also prevent The Second Cup from selling cannabis products from its two locations on campus. The company has stated it is looking into partnering with cannabis distributors.

Students and staff will also not be allowed to sell cannabis on campus.

“You can’t buy it now because it’s illegal. When it comes to a time that you can buy it, you have to buy it through the proper channels and have to be of age,” said O’Leary. “It’s not like people will be walking around campus smoking dope, in a similar way they can’t walk around campus drinking alcohol. We will be following the laws for sure.”

O’Leary said he doesn’t expect the new policy to go into effect until at least the end of the 2018 calendar year because the university would like to consult various stakeholders, including public open houses with the student body this fall.

Approximately 17 per cent of the workers at University of Guelph are smokers, said O’Leary. He expects the percentage of students who smoke is about the same.

“We do have to respect them, it can’t just be arbitrary to implement a policy that would be difficult for them,” he said.

Currently at University of Guelph campuses, smoking is prohibited in all enclosed public places or enclosed workplaces and vehicles and within 30 feet of any university building entrances, exits, loading docks, fresh air intakes or compressed gas storage areas.

Only persons conducting scientific research with lighted tobacco or Indigenous persons smoking or holding lighted tobacco for a cultural or spiritual ceremony are exempt from the current U of G policy.

The current policy applies to all faculty, staff and students at University of Guelph.

Along with the new policy, O’Leary said the university will continue to offer smoking cessation programs to students and staff who want to quit smoking.

Smoking cessation is among the programs currently offered to employees through the university’s Wellness@Work online portal.

Students interested in quitting smoking can participate in Leave the Pack Behind, a smoking cessation program funded by the Government of Ontario and Health Canada.

For years, students have been assembling on Johnson Green every April 20 for a celebration of cannabis culture more commonly called ‘420’. O’Leary is not sure if the university will enforce its policy on that day or turn a blind eye as it has in the past.

“We have kind of lived with that and looked at it as a rare occasion. Maybe we will continue to do that,” said O’Leary.



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Kenneth Armstrong

About the Author: Kenneth Armstrong

Kenneth Armstrong is a news reporter and photojournalist who regularly covers municipal government, business and politics and photographs events, sports and features.
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