Tribune Explains: McGill’s updated drug policy

McGill’s updated Policy Concerning Alcohol, Cannabis, and Other Drugs went into effect on Nov. 1. The McGill Tribune spoke with Gabriel Aboutboul and Matthew McLaughlin, representatives for Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy McGill (CSSDP), about how this policy will affect drug use at McGill. 

Which drugs are allowed under this policy?

The policy forbids the use of alcohol on McGill property unless it is done at residence or at an event that has acquired an alcohol permit. The use of non-medical cannabis and other illegal drugs is strictly forbidden, however, the consumption of marijuana for medicinal purposes is allowed. As in the rest of Canada, personal cannabis cultivation and the sale or distribution of cannabis or any other drug is prohibited without an official license. It is also in violation of the policy to promote marijuana products on school property or in university communications. Violations of the new policy will be considered non-academic offenses and may result in disciplinary measures, ranging from removal from university property to criminal charges.

Why is an updated policy necessary? 

The updated policy on drugs and alcohol replaces the interim rules enacted in Aug. 2018 following the federal government’s legalization of cannabis. The past guidelines prohibited the use and sale of cannabis on campus, excepting cases of use in academic research. Cynthia Lee, associate director for media relations at McGill, explained the reason for updating this interim policy. 

There was no specific incident that caused the development of this policy,” Lee said. “When the university announced its interim cannabis rules shortly before the legalization of cannabis in Oct. 2018, Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance) Yves Beauchamp and Provost Christopher Manfredi informed the community that […] McGill will develop an [updated] policy addressing the possession and use of cannabis, alcohol and other drugs.” 

According to the policy statement, the purpose of the recent update is to promote a healthy, safe, and respectful environment for all members of the McGill community. However, McLaughlin, U2 Economics and Urban Systems, explained that this policy was not created solely at the discretion of the McGill administration. 

“The government of Quebec has a policy that says cannabis can’t be [smoked or vapourized] on campus. McGill goes a step further and says you can’t consume it in any form.” McLaughlin said. “If we were in let’s say [British Columbia (BC)], it might be a different story because in BC there’s no provincial law that says that you can’t consume cannabis on campus. In fact, [The University of British Columbia] has made it so that you can smoke or consume cannabis in certain sites.” 

To whom does the policy apply?

All members of the McGill community, including students, faculty, staff, and visitors to any of the school’s campuses must abide by the rules of this policy while on university property and while representing McGill at conferences or events. Certain members of the McGill community will be subject to specific clauses within the policy, such as employees, who are all prohibited from working under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

McLaughlin said that students who live in residences are also impacted by the campus-wide ban on recreational cannabis.

 “Students in residence, who literally live on campus […] have to essentially leave their homes. There’s no place for them to [consume cannabis] except for in the public street.” 

How will this policy impact people with substanceuse disorders? 

For members of the McGill community with substanceuse issues, accommodations will be made up to the point of unacceptable harm and inconvenience towards the university. Students and staff suffering from substance abuse are encouraged within the policy to seek support from the Employee & Family Assistance Program or Student Services.

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