Marijuana is just one of many controlled substances that make their way onto university campuses, but its upcoming legalization is going to present particular challenges for Canadian universities as they attempt to strike a balance between federal law and university policy.
Canadian universities have zero-tolerance policies toward the use or possession of marijuana. Nevertheless, it is one of the most used and easily accessible recreational substances among university students. A 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey estimated past-year marijuana use to be 33% among 18-24-year-olds, the ages of most university students.
When I stayed in a university residence a few years ago, I had a first-hand look at how some students become dependent on marijuana, a dependence that seriously detracted from their studies. And a few students were funding their education by dealing marijuana both on and off campus.
The use of recreational marijuana poses legal issues for university administrators, who also should be concerned about the negative consequences it might have on students’ well-being and their ability to learn. A study published in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors in 2015 indicated that marijuana users miss more lectures and tutorials and are less likely to join extracurricular activities.
One of the challenges university administrations will face once recreational marijuana is legal is that universities have both adult and minor students, each with different legal status concerning controlled substances. It’s difficult to adopt an all-encompassing policy when some students are legally of age to consume, while others are below a government-mandated minimum age.