SAIT’s medical marijuana policy challenging for students

A confrontation between a SAIT student and the head of SAIT security over medical marijuana use on campus on Friday, Nov. 17 sparked a hole in communication as to what is expected from cannabis users.
Matt Shawchuk, a SAIT business administration student and alumni was approached by Barry Cochrane, manager of SAIT Security, who, in passing, asked to see Shawchuk’s medical marijuana card.Shawchuk told him he was using a medical prescription, and didn’t have to show proof of this, unless it was to police officers.According to SAIT’s specific rules on medical cannabis exceptions, which are currently being written by SAIT Accessibilty, any faculty member on campus is authorized to ask to see proof of medical use.Shawchuk, who said he wasn’t comfortable showing his card to Cochrane, who allegedly first identified himself as a police officer (Cochrane is a 25-year veteran of the Calgary Police Force), then identified himself as SAIT’s Senior Manager of Security and Emergency.

According to SAIT Accessibility and SAIT Security, there is a concern from trade students that second-hand marijuana smoke exposure could put them at risk in potential drug tests.
A 2014 peer-reviewed study, released by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, found that exposure to marijuana smoke in ventilated spaces rarely resulted in positive results in drug tests.
The current policy defined in SAIT’s Smoking and use of Tobacco Products policy states, “cannabis marijuana, with the exception of marijuana used for lawful and properly authorized medication purposes,” is accepted.
“He [Cochrane] doesn’t know the policy and that’s a problem,” said Shawchuk. “He’s uneducated about the policy and I feel like he’s trying to enforce his own set of rules.”

Shawchuk was referred to SAIT’s student conduct for further information.

Matthew Shawchuk shows his legally prescribed medical cannabis at SAIT in Calgary on Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017. Shawchuk is a medicinal marijuana user and wants SAIT to clarify the policies surrounding prescription use. (Photo by Chelsea Kemp/The Weal)

Approximately 10 minutes after the incident Shawchuk received an e-mail from the Office of the Registrar requesting that he meet with the Student Conduct Coordinator Harry Hackl and provide proof of a medical marijuana prescription.
According to Shawchuk, Hackle requested that those taking their medical marijuana be discreet and consume it either behind ACAD, behind the Senator Burns building, or at a designated location deemed by the registrar. Hackl was unable to share where the designated area is located, as it changes on a case-by-case basis.

Shawchuk was instructed to go to SAIT Accessibility to register himself as a medical cannabis user. He was told that he would be given a card that indicates he is allowed to use his prescription on campus, otherwise he would face a non-academic misconduct.
After visiting Accessibility, he was unable to get a clear answer on SAIT’s policies on smoking medical marijuana on campus.

In the Accommodations for Students with Disabilities policy it requires that students request to use medical marijuana on campus through a doctor’s note presented to the Office of the Registrar.
According to Hackl, currently students who require a prescription for medical marijuana are required to register through Accessibility. The students prescription and medical history will be documented, including the doctor prescribed dosage. A SAIT panel will review requests for this accommodation and plans will be made for students on a case by case basis.

These plans will be based on the “reasonability” of the request.

Although SAIT is considered a public-access property, the post-secondary is private property and therefore has the right to set regulations and policies for smoking medical marijuana on campus.
Hackl will be attending SAIT orientations in an effort to ensure that students are informed on the policies on campus.

As of Monday, Nov. 27, 2017, SAIT Accessibility confirmed that the specific SAIT Rules and Processes for medical marijuana, under section 10 of Smoking and use of Tobacco Products policy, are currently being revised.
The new policy is designed to ensure that Security, the Office of the Registrar and Accessibility are following the same regulations and to ensure that it is easy for students to understand and access the information on smoking medical marijuana on campus.

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