Cannabis at the University of Alberta

The university's regulations

Recreational cannabis is legal in Canada. In Alberta, people aged 18 and over can purchase cannabis and cannabis oil from stores and online. Public consumption will be permitted in Edmonton and Camrose, where University of Alberta campuses are located.

Please visit Cannabis Legalization in Alberta for important details about the law.

See the final report of the university's Cannabis Working Group.

Visit the Resource Page for more information about cannabis and cannabis laws in Canada.

The university's regulations:

Cannabis on North Campus

* Please note that as of May, 2019, the designated cannabis use zone near Rutherford North Library was eliminated after a six month trial. This was the result of concerns expressed by tour group leaders who lead thousands of children through the area each year.

  • Smoking and vaping of cannabis products is permitted in a limited number of locations on campus. See below.

  • Smoking and vaping of cannabis products inside residence buildings is not permitted.

  • Growing cannabis plants in any university building (other than in approved research) is not permitted. This includes residences.

  • Smoking and vaping of cannabis products is not permitted at university events, including student group events, for at least a year.

  • Sales, advertising, branding and sponsorship of cannabis products on university campuses or at university events is not permitted.

South Campus

  • Smoking and vaping of cannabis products is not permitted at South Campus.

Enterprise Square

  • Smoking and vaping of cannabis products is not permitted on university property.

Campus Saint-Jean

  • Smoking and vaping of cannabis products is permitted at one location on campus, near the parking exit and the Daridon pavilion.
  • Smoking and vaping of cannabis products inside residence buildings is not permitted.
  • Growing cannabis plants in any university building (other than in approved research) is not permitted. This includes residences.
  • Smoking and vaping of cannabis products is not permitted at university events, including student group events, for at least a year.
  • Sales, advertising, branding and sponsorship of cannabis products on university campuses or at university events is not permitted.

Augustana

  • Beginning in fall 2019, smoking and vaping of cannabis is permitted in the plaza behind the library and at the Gazebo.
  • Smoking and vaping of cannabis products inside residence buildings is not permitted.
  • Growing cannabis plants in any university building (other than in approved research) is not permitted. This includes residences.
  • Smoking and vaping of cannabis products is not permitted at university events, including student group events, for at least a year.
  • Sales, advertising, branding and sponsorship of cannabis products on university campuses or at university events is not permitted.

Questions and Answers

Why are you permitting smoking and vaping cannabis on university property?

There are several reasons:

  • We believe we should align with the laws and values of the surrounding community.
  • Thousands of people live on our campuses in university residences. Without a place to use cannabis there would be no legal location for them to use this legal substance without leaving university property.
  • Many members of the community have a medical need for cannabis and we believe they should have places to use it.
  • We support a harm reduction strategy based on education about risks rather than prohibition.

According to your own survey, the majority of people at the university are against permitting cannabis use on your campuses. Aren’t you ignoring their wishes?

No. Our expectation is that we can address their objections by limiting the number of consumption zones and placing them at a reasonable distance from non-users. At the same time, we hope to address the wishes and expectations of significant number of people within our community who support consumption on our properties.

How are you enforcing this?

Our peace officers have the authority to enforce laws and university policy and will do so when needed.

Does the university have the authority to prohibit cannabis consumption on its property, even if the local municipality permits public consumption?

Yes, the university is private property. We are permitted to make policies that are more restrictive than the surrounding community bylaws.

Are the university’s rules be the same as the bylaw in Edmonton?

No. We are more restrictive by limiting the physical locations for cannabis smoking and vaping to a small, defined number.

How did you select the locations for consumption?

The locations need to be safe and accessible and as far away from non-users as possible. Special emphasis was placed on safe places for students living in residence, who would otherwise have to leave the property.

Why is it a problem for students in residence to leave the property to smoke cannabis?

We know that some students in residence will use cannabis whether they are allowed to do so on the property or not. Providing a safe space to do so means they don't have to walk to a sidewalk on a busy street, enter an adjacent neighbourhood or even drive to a more distant location. This becomes a greater concern as the temperatures drop in winter.

Does this send the message the university supports smoking pot?

No. We are recognizing that cannabis will be a legal substance. While we will permit its use, we will also remind people there are risks.

What happens if your smoking and vaping zones plan doesn’t work?

We will adapt and make changes.

Why prohibit sales, advertising and branding of cannabis products on our campuses?

We don’t see a role for our university in promoting cannabis. It’s not consistent with a harm reduction and public health approach.  

Why wouldn’t students be able to grow, smoke or cook with cannabis in residence?

There are several reasons:

  • Smoking is a fire hazard and creates unwanted odours
  • Vaping affects non users with odour and second hand vapour
  • Cooking also has odour issues
  • Growing has fire risk from the lights used and mould risk from water.

Can students and staff possess cannabis on campus?

Yes, as long as they are at least 18, as the law states.

Are you concerned workers will come to work high?

University staff are responsible adults capable of making their own decisions about appropriate behaviour at work. We will, however, use the opportunity to educate managers and others about how to identify and respond when a worker appears unfit for duty. This will be supported by a new policy that speaks to all forms of impairment.

What happens if students show up to class high?

If a student creates a disruption due to intoxication, the university has a process to respond, through the provisions of the Code of Student Conduct.

North Campus Smoking/Vaping Areas

The university has designated three locations on North Campus where legal smoking and vaping of cannabis products is permitted.

Two of locations are near university residences and will permit those of legal age to use cannabis close to home. One is adjacent to the Students' Union Building. The locations were chosen to try to balance the wishes of those who choose to use cannabis and those that don’t wish to be near it.

The University of Alberta is one of the only campuses in Canada to permit the use of cannabis on its property. This was a conscious choice. The university believes it can do more good by allowing it to happen in the open, where the university can de-stigmatize cannabis and employ a harm reduction approach.