Higher education

On Oct. 17, St. Thomas University student Alex Cooke woke up at his usual time before sunrise to drive to school to work on homework. But this time he took a detour to Fredericton’s newest store, Cannabis NB. At 8:30 a.m., he was one of the first people in Canada to purchase legal cannabis from the government operated stores.

Cooke, who grew up in a small town where cannabis was almost more popular than drinking alcohol, said the legalization of the substance opens new doors for conversations about medication and cannabis’ use as a sleep and appetite aid. But Cooke said he thinks legalization won’t change society’s habits.

Early on Oct. 17, Alex Cooke was one of the first people in Canada to purchase legal cannabis. (Caitlin Dutt/AQ)

“The people who really want it legalized just want to be left alone more than anything without the stigma and without having to deal with the black market.”

STU’s policy

According to STU’s Policy on Cannabis, smoking the substance is prohibited on campus and consumption of any form in public is prohibited. Growing cannabis and preparing edibles on STU property is not permitted. Non-smoked cannabis products can be consumed in a private residence room, such as a single room or in a designated residence lounge. Cannabis products on campus must be kept in a secure location where those under 19 years old cannot access it.

Brock Richardson, STU’s director of student services, said the rules are based on the provincial guidelines. Since New Brunswick’s provincial guidelines were already strict compared to some other
provinces and territories, Richardson said there wasn’t a lot of space for the university to fill in.

The university also adopted the harms reductions campaign from the New Brunswick Medical Society. Richardson said they are taking a two-faceted approach. The university will inform students of the possible risks of cannabis use through posters and a presentation during Welcome Week, but it will also teach students about proper use after they smoke it.

“When an authority figure tells them not to drink [in the case of alcohol] that message isn’t necessarily well received . . . When somebody’s had a little bit of experience and they can reflect on their own actions and their own decisions and then you can have a conversation one-on-one not in a pushy way, but to help them reflect. Those conversations are often really effective,” said Richardson.

In terms of the influence of cannabis legalization on the campus environment, Richardson said he hasn’t seen a massive change so far and he doesn’t think there will be. The timing of legalization may
have something to do with the mellow transition as well, he said. Rather than having access to legal cannabis during Welcome Week, people are knee-deep in midterms.

Richardson said even though it’s the university’s job to set the rules and look at education, they don’t control society.

“In terms of how the student body or how the society at large is going to take this, it’s not up to us, and we’ll be watching and adjusting as necessary.”

Students react

Third-year student Sarah Bonenfant said a person she knew got in a car accident when she was impaired by cannabis and she’s worried that with the legalization people will use the substance more and with less caution.

“I feel like people are going to throw the rules out the window,” Bonenfant said.

Third-year student Kyra Wilson visited Cannabis NB after opening day and said although the store was “out of the way,” the employees were helpful and knowledgeable. Wilson said she’s glad the substance is now legal.

“The big perks of [cannabis legalization] is hopefully people won’t go to jail now for minor marijuana charges. It was mainly people of colour who were targeted … then they have this criminal record … it’s not fair,” she said.

According to STU’s Policy on Cannabis, smoking the substance is prohibited on campus and consumption of any form in public is prohibited. (Caitlin Dutt/AQ)

The night of legalization, Cooke tried the substance he bought earlier that morning. He said he could tell the quality difference and that he got his “bang for his buck.” Cooke said he’s ready for a conversation on cannabis.

“It brings it into the light. You’re able to have a civil conversation with somebody and say, ‘Yes, I realize that there is a percentage of people that can be addicted and there are cons to this but this is
going to be good.’ It’s to have a conversation about what we should do with [cannabis], especially in medicine.”

With files from Sarah Morin

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