Kingston residents deserve transparent cannabis rules

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Hazy cannabis regulation means Kingston residents and students can’t be expected to follow unclear rules.

On Oct. 17, recreational cannabis use will become legal across Canada. Yet it’s unclear where Kingston residents are expected to smoke in public spaces.  

Ontario’s government will allow people to smoke cannabis wherever tobacco can legally be smoked, but municipalities can add their own restrictions.

In Kingston, smokers must be three metres away from publicly accessible areas. However, this doesn’t stop people from smoking walking down the street or while standing outside buildings. Similarly, marijuana won’t be allowed in parks or near buildings.

That’s difficult to enforce, considering almost every feature of a city is near a park or a building.

Given tobacco’s widespread public regulation, it’s effective to align cannabis rules with cigarettes. It encourages the substance’s decriminalization and acknowledges its common use. That said, equating the two will affect the perception of both substances, arguably restricting both further for young people in the city.

St. Lawrence College announced last week that smoking of any substance will be prohibited on its campuses. Though extreme, it’s important St. Lawrence articulated its rules well in advance, where Queen’s has not.

Just two days before legalization, Queen’s released cannabis policy prohibiting the substance on campus. Even so, students remain largely unaware of University rules due to their late arrival. In 2018, the Student Code of Conduct was amended to mention cannabis, saying it’s disallowed unless “permitted by law and University policy.”

Unguided users of a valid substance face undue trouble and consequences. Given City policy hasn’t yet clarified where cannabis consumption is allowed, Queen’s late-breaking policy is ineffective.

A last-minute policy announcement despite a longstanding legalization date speaks to the larger stigma surrounding cannabis use. Consumption or possession of cannabis—unless allowed by law—is an offence under Queen’s Non-Academic Misconduct (NAM) rules.

Between NAM and the new University District Safety Initiative, as Homecoming approaches, students face threatening uncertainty.

While the substance is legal, students have no understanding of whether cannabis apparatuses such as bongs or joints will be allowed in public, or the extent to which cannabis intoxication is allowed on University District streets.

That ambiguity extends to University-owned student housing and smoking on campus.

This makes young people susceptible to legal repercussions easily avoided through transparency and forethought.

As Kingston’s cannabis regulation remains unclear, Queen’s students remain subject to municipal policy nonetheless. If Queen’s hopes to proactively regulate cannabis consumption, their response should be non-disciplinary and clear-cut, like for tobacco.

Queen’s must collaborate with the City to communicate policy development in a timely manner.

If students aren’t apprised of legal developments directly impacting them, they don’t stand a chance of making enfranchised and safe decisions.

—Journal Editorial Board

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