Anyone who was on campus around 4 p.m. on Oct. 6 likely remembers the pro medical marijuana protest, which occurred in front of Mills Plaza, where one man protested McMaster’s looming smoking ban, arguing that its policy against medical marijuana ignored its health benefits.

The man in question was Christopher Lawson, a local activist known within the community for his work promoting medical marijuana. He does not have any official affiliation with the university. The protest centered on McMaster’s proposed smoke-free campus initiative set to begin on Jan. 1, 2018, at which time smoking of any kind will be banned from campus grounds.

Marijuana remains a point of interest for McMaster, from the administration to the student union to researchers all taking a unique stance.

In its current state, McMaster’s smoking ban will also include a ban on the use of medical marijuana on campus. This ban is a part of a larger effort to improve public health on university campuses, highlighted through Okanagan Charter.

In addition, McMaster administration also received a human rights complaint earlier this year after excluding a graduate student from attending an overseas trip due to her use of medical marijuana.

Halima Hatimy was meant to take an overseas trip to Ghana as a part of her ongoing research on global health in Feb., but was stopped by the university a day before she was meant to leave.

The university felt she did not fully understand the risk associated with taking medical marijuana to Ghana. Hatimy has since filed a human rights complaint against the university.

While the administration takes hard line with marijuana use, the McMaster Students Union has a softer approach toward the subject.

During the Sept. 24 MSU Student Representative Assembly meeting, the MSU SRA voted to adopt a motion cautioning the university’s smoking ban, arguing that it currently does not recognize that marginalized groups are disproportionately affected by addiction and substance abuse.

The SRA motion argued that the university ought to prioritize student safety and accessibility before considering implementation of the ban.

With this in mind, the SRA has not taken an official stance on marijuana itself, but rather a more general stance concerning smoking.

Meanwhile, research on campus is very much in favor of decriminalization and use of the substance. Prof. Michael DeVillaer, under the Peter Boris Centre for Addictions Research, recently argued for the decriminalization of minor cannabis-related offenses and focusing the legalization discussion around public health.

“The Canadian government should continue to work slowly and methodically towards the legalization of cannabis for recreational purposes, with a priority on the protection of public health and safety over revenue,” read a part of the policy analysis available on the PBCAR’s website.

The policy analysis also calls for the establishment of a not-for-profit marijuana authority for all recreational use meant only to address the current demand without actively promoting the substance. For example, the policy analysis would ban product innovation such as edible forms of marijuana.

Overall, the policy analysis is in favor of the decriminalization and use of marijuana, so long as it is regulated through a public health lenses.

While the protest on Oct. 6 remains a foggy memory overridden by the reading week break, McMaster’s multiple sectors continue to have contrasting opinions over marijuana use and its role in our lives.

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