Thompson Rivers University plans to prohibit the recreational use of cannabis on campus. This, despite the failure of prohibition to deter use for the last 95 years in Canada.
Cannabis is not harmless. Inhaling smoke, be it from wildfires, tobacco, or cannabis carries risks. But banning cannabis is not the way to control those risks.
Education is. Education has reduced the consumption of tobacco. Reductions have been especially greater for those with a higher education according to a report from Statistics Canada.
TRU has nine designated locations where tobacco and medical marijuana can be smoked. Once cannabis is legalized on October 17, those locations would be a logical place for recreational cannabis smokers as well.
TRU’s Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee voted on March 5, 2018, to ban all smoking of recreational marijuana on campus for health and safety reasons. Chris Montoya, committee member and Senior Lecturer in Psychology, says not all of the 20-member committee agreed:
“Pro-marijuana smokers on the TRU committee argued that marijuana smoke is no different than cigarette smoke and that smoking areas designated for cigarette smoke should also be used for marijuana.”
But they were apparently swayed by arguments presented by Montoya: cannabis is more potent than ever before, bystanders can get stoned from second-hand smoke, and marijuana has been linked with psychoses.
Montoya is a member of the National Advisory Council (2016-18) and the Partnership for a Drug Free Canada. He repeated some of his claims to Kamloops This Week:
“A student cannot get drunk walking next to another student drinking a beer. However, students, staff and faculty can get stoned breathing in second-hand smoke.”
Ian Mitchell, Kamloops Emergency Physician, disagrees:
“There have been a series of studies in which non-smokers are shut into a small room with cannabis smokers and tested for both impairment and positive urine tests. While these things can happen, it is only under the most extreme circumstances,” he told me by message.
A doctoral student in clinical psychology at UBC Okanagan also disagrees with Montoya:
“Researchers at John Hopkins University have been conducting studies on the effects of cannabis smoke exposure to non-users and have found that, under regular indoor conditions, non-smokers did not experience changes in cognitive ability –i.e. ’get high,’” says Michelle Thiessen in a letter to KTW.
There are places on campus for students and staff to drink alcohol as well as smoke cigarettes. TRU spokesperson, Darshan Lindsay, told CFJC Today: “There are a lot of regulations, systems in place to promote responsible use of alcohol. We just don’t have that in place for cannabis. For the university, recognizing that we are a place of education and that we want to promote an environment that’s safe and healthy for everyone, our position is that recreational cannabis should not be present on campus.”
Failing to have a “place for cannabis” perpetuates the notion that prohibition will reduce cannabis use. Banning cannabis has a predictable effect -it simply drives consumption into the shadows and prevents dealing with the risks.
TRU should become a model in harm reduction, as “a place of education.”
Prohibition is futile: TRU might as well prohibit wildfires -it would be as effective.