Some­thing to talk about

More open dis­cus­sions seen as a pos­i­tive step for stu­dents weigh­ing pot op­tions

Sackville Tribune - - TANTRAMAR - BY KATIE TOWER SACKVILLE TRI­BUNE- POST

Le­gal­iza­tion of cannabis is in its early days, and many parts of so­ci­ety are still get­ting com­fort­able with the no­tion.

But post-sec­ondary stu­dent lead­ers across the prov­ince say on-cam­pus ed­u­ca­tion and aware­ness cam­paigns lead­ing up to Oct. 17 played a sig­nif­i­cant role in help­ing stu­dents adapt and be­come more com­fort­able talk­ing about its use.

“It’s not con­sid­ered or seen in a way that’s as shame­ful any­more,” said Emma Miller, pres­i­dent of the Mount Al­li­son Stu­dent Union and a fourth-year po­lit­i­cal sci­ence stu­dent.

Miller was one of sev­eral stu­dents who were part of a panel dis­cus­sion at a re­cent provin­cial fo­rum on cannabis at Mount Al­li­son Univer­sity. She said thanks to col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­forts be­tween the univer­sity and stu­dent union to make stu­dents aware of cannabis and how le­gal­iza­tion would im­pact them, it’s be­come much more widely-dis­cussed.

“I think they feel more com­fort­able ask­ing ques­tions,” said Miller. “It’s be­com­ing more nor­mal­ized and ac­cepted.”

Ben Palmer, vice-pres­i­dent of stu­dent life with the Univer­sity of New Brunswick Stu­dent Union in Fred­er­ic­ton, agreed it was im­por­tant to en­sure stu­dents were well in­formed on the is­sue be­fore le­gal­iza­tion came into ef­fect. He said UNB de­vel­oped a cannabis work­ing group to de­velop an ed­u­ca­tion cam­paign, one which en­cour­aged more open con­ver­sa­tion at his cam­pus. From what he’s seen, stu­dents are com­fort­able ask­ing ques­tions about cannabis or talk­ing about its use in class or with friends.

“It’s kind of a hot topic right now ... so I think there’s a lot of ap­peal to that and so stu­dents want to learn more about it,” said Palmer. “It’s be­com­ing more nor­mal­ized in con­ver­sa­tions.”

Bibi Wasi­ima Joomun, vi­cepres­i­dent of stu­dent life at St. Thomas Univer­sity, said while stu­dents and staff are still try­ing to learn and adapt to the new cul­ture on cam­pus, “see­ing what works and what doesn’t,” she agreed ed­u­ca­tion was key in en­sur­ing the con­ver­sa­tion was sparked.

“It’s made it OK to talk about it, so more peo­ple are hav­ing those con­ver­sa­tions,” she said.

Nai Ma­honey, stu­dent union pres­i­dent for New Brunswick Com­mu­nity Col­lege cam­puses across the prov­ince, said stu­dents feel they can ap­proach the sub­ject eas­ier than they could prior to Oct. 17. She’s hope­ful those open con­ver­sa­tions will con­tinue.

“It’s all new. We are all learn­ing here. So it’s im­por­tant to ap­proach this topic with as much re­search and ed­u­ca­tion as pos­si­ble so that we get it right,” she said.

The stu­dent lead­ers agree one of the ma­jor ben­e­fits of in­creased aware­ness is that stu­dents are hope­fully pur­su­ing safer and more in­formed de­ci­sions about cannabis use.

“From what I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced, stu­dents want to go to Cannabis NB rather than get­ting it from a dealer,” said Miller.

She said Cannabis NB staff play a valu­able role in ed­u­cat­ing cus­tomers about their pur­chases — what they’re in­gest­ing and how it will af­fect their body.

She said one of the key fac­tors in their de­ci­sion will, of course, come down to price. But she pointed out the qual­ity of le­gal­ized cannabis far out­weighs the drugs peo­ple tend to get on the black mar­ket.

“The knowl­edge of what you’re in­gest­ing is valu­able,” she said, not­ing that’s one of the main rea­sons be­hind le­gal­iza­tion.

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