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How schools across Greater Victoria are handling marijuana legalization

Districts and campuses have different approaches to pot use and education
Local schools have different methods when talking to students about marijuana use now that it’s legalized. (File photo)

While those over 19 could enjoy their first legal joint Wednesday, at schools across the region rules around marijuana use haven’t changed much for the underage.

For School District 61, 62, 63, a blanket ban for underage users is in effect, with a varied amount of education available.

In School District 61, Greater Victoria, a large education movement has been in place this year surrounding drugs and their effects. In their 10-month “substance use snapshot” campaign, where each month focuses on a certain theme, October was appropriately centred on cannabis.

“We’ve distributed to every school a different poster called ‘Curious about cannabis?,’” said Harold Caldwell, director of the learning support team. “It’s filled with questions, and myths versus facts, as well as a QR code to link to other sites, and we’re developing a modified version is made for middle schools.”

SD61's "Curious about Cannabis" poster is part of their 10-month Substance Use Snapshot campaign. (File contributed/ SD61)

So far the Snapshot website has seen more than 1,300 visitors, and the campaign itself has had positive feedback.

“This is all through a harm-reduction lens,” Caldwell said. “We hope people stay abstinent as long as possible, but in reality, people will use.”

PHOTOS: Cannabis consumption in the provincial capital

For School District 62, Sooke, information on their stance was posted online.

“All of our policies prohibiting intoxication or controlled substances in schools still apply, regardless of the legal change,” the District’s online cannabis policy states. “Like alcohol, cannabis is a controlled substance and is illegal for anyone under 19. Cannabis will not be allowed in our schools or on school properties. It is prohibited to be intoxicated, impaired, consume alcohol or smoke any substance including vaping, tobacco or cannabis on school property.”

School District 63, Central Saanich, passed out no extra information and posted nothing online. No one was available for comment by the time of print.

For post-secondary students, most of whom have the legal right to use pot, quiet policies were put in place that mimicked existing smoking policies.

READ MORE: West Shore teens fined for possession of pot on Wednesday

At the University of Victoria, for example, smoking and vaping has been limited to two specific cannabis-smoking areas at benches marked with green stripes. These are different benches than 12 other benches designated for tobacco smokers.

As far as use goes, in an online statement released on Oct. 15, UVic’s protocol for students asks them to use self-reflection and self-awareness when choosing to use or not.

Staff cannot use recreational cannabis at work, though exceptions may be made for those with a doctor’s note. However, the smoking policy’s enforcement is based on the idea that “all members of the campus community will voluntarily comply with the smoking policy.”

Camosun College is also using its long-standing rules around smoking and vaping to also be relevant to cannabis: only in designated areas, with a preference that students don’t come to class high.

Royal Roads University updated its campus smoking policy to allow the restricted use of cannabis on Campus. Smoking will be allowed in certain areas, separate from tobacco use areas.

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