By Cole Parkinson
Horizon School Division is preparing for the upcoming marijuana legalization as they updated their policy to reflect the upcoming change.
With legalization coming sometime in the summer, according to the Canadian Government, Horizon has made a quick update to their policy Tobacco-Free Environment, now aptly called Tobacco and Cannabis-Free Environment.
“Cannabis, as you know is potentially going to be legal. The latest communication from the federal government is that there is a delay of up to eight weeks. The Alberta government has provided a framework around where they are going with distribution, sales and so on. Towns still have the ability to create bylaws around dispensaries and so on,” said Wilco Tymensen, superintendent of schools for Horizon.
Much like the division’s policy for zero tolerance alcohol on any of their properties, the newly titled policy will restrict the use and possession of both tobacco and cannabis.
Even though 18 will be the legal age of which people can buy cannabis products, Horizon has the power to employ a strict tobacco, alcohol and cannabis free ban on their properties even if the student is of age.
“Similar to alcohol which is also 18, we have the ability to say our school grounds are actually alcohol free. We have the ability to say our school grounds are tobacco free even though you can buy tobacco as an adult, you still can’t have it on our facilities,” said Tymensen.
One of the hang ups that hasn’t been really discussed is the use of medical marijuana in schools.
The question becomes if a student or a staff member has a prescription for medical marijuana, are there any exceptions in place for allowing it on school property.
“It gets more complicated because it does tie into the concept of medical marijuana and what happens around medical accommodations. However there is a difference between recreation versus medical. Certainly there is an understanding provincially looking at a zero tolerance for marijuana or cannabis products on school grounds so we don’t know what the implications of that are around the medical situation when you have an employee or student. We are waiting for some of that legislation to be cleared out,” added Tymensen.
Usually with updates to policy, the board only passes first reading, that is unless all board members agree that no consultation or further reading is needed.
The board voted unanimously for all three readings to pass the updated policy.
While the policy has been updated to keep up with the legalization, there will be further work needed to be done when the full legislation comes down, especially in regard to medical marijuana.
For the time being, the board is happy with the policy but in the near future a new policy will be put forward to better cover the extent of the cannabis legalization as well as tobacco and alcohol.
“My intent will be to probably remove this policy all together in the middle of next year and update and create a more comprehensive policy that ties in around alcohol, tobacco, cannabis and the concept of medical as a whole,” said Tymensen. “During the interim what I’m proposing is simply make it crystal clear that as a board and jurisdiction, our stance is no cannabis, no cannabis products within our buildings, on our grounds, in our vehicles, at our events.”