Blog post by: Simona Rosenfield
On December 5th, the newly elected Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) party proposed a highly controversial bill that effectively handcuffs cannabis users who don’t own private property. For the most part, discussion about Bill 2 has revolved around the legal age to consume cannabis, as the CAQ intends to raise it from 18 to 21 years old. However, another change was proposed in Bill 2 that undeniably affects and further limits disabled students attending universities across Quebec.
Currently, as outlined in the provincial government’s Cannabis Regulation Act (CRA), cannabis consumption is completely prohibited anywhere on campus grounds. This includes consumption in student residences, designated tobacco smoking areas on campus, and anywhere indoors or outdoors on campus—including medical cannabis users. While smoking tobacco and vaping are permitted on campus, “as long as it occurs at least nine metres from building entrances, windows and air intakes,” no cannabis smoking, vaping, or ingestion is permitted for anyone, even past the nine-metre perimeter, according to the CRA.
These outdated laws reinforce stigma and sustain the by-gone days of prohibition,
ultimately targeting students who are disabled and use cannabis as medication among other vulnerable demographics. They do not need more limitations.
There is a wide body of research that confirms the many ailments cannabis treats—from multiple sclerosis to epilepsy, anxiety to arthritis; cannabis is an essential medicine for many students. Some even have to disrupt their school day by leaving the premises to relieve pain, offset a seizure, or reduce tremors by ingesting cannabis in the street.
Consequences for disobeying this “zero tolerance” policy are steep— with fines up to $2,250 from local police and “disciplinary action” that varies from school to school.
By banning all cannabis use on campus, medical users have been forced to resort to smoking on public sidewalks and streets: an already inadequate solution, lacking in dignity and discretion. By banning public use in streets, the CAQ bill eliminates this last resort that medical users have in emergency situations.
Ultimately, the CAQ bill leaves medical cannabis users with an impossible decision— take their medicine illegally at school or in public, or take it at home, a dilemma that puts them at a professional and educational disadvantage.
The consequences of Bill 2 would be deep and devastating for students with disabilities enrolled in school. University institutions must be allowed to provide designated cannabis consumption areas so students can consume cannabis safely, discreetly, and with dignity.
We need to listen to informed researchers, physicians, and young adults when writing legislation, and we need laws that support vulnerable members of our society. We need cannabis-on-campus legislation reform that reflects the needs of those it attempts to serve—its student body, and that are based in evidence rather than stigma and antiquated perceptions. With three months of legalization under our belt, we can tell already, this is just the beginning.