Pubdate: Wed, 28 Jun 2017
Source: Edmonton Sun (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 Canoe Limited Partnership.
Author: Janet French
Page: 7


Never did Alberta School Boards Association president Mary Martin
think she'd have a file labelled "Marijuana" among her advocacy documents.

As the July 2018 date for legal recreational marijuana in Canada
approaches, Alberta school trustees and senior administrators are
questioning how they can prepare for the change.

Every school board in the province will have to revisit policies and
procedures, from student codes of conduct to rules about administering
medication, said Kevin Andrea, superintendent of Whitecourt-based
Northern Gateway Public Schools.

"There's not one school board in the province that could say that we
are ready now for this,"Andrea said Tuesday.

Boards are closely watching the Alberta government's decisions about
how and where pot can be consumed in public, the legal age for
cannabis use and municipal decisions about where dispensaries can be
located, said Martin, who is also a Calgary Catholic school trustee.

"Clearly, the issue of safety for our kids is paramount to school
boards,"she said.

Edmonton Public Schools will have clear rules ready by next summer
governing marijuana use on and off school property, superintendent
Darrel Robertson told a May school board meeting.

"It's not going to be acceptable to be at school under the influence
of marijuana or any other substance,"Robertson said.

What the district lacks are presentations and other resources to
prevent students from driving while drug impaired, or explaining the
potential effects of cannabis on students' health, Robertson said.
Those lessons should be in Alberta's new K-12 curriculum, he said.

Nearly 29 per cent of 15 to 19 year olds said they'd illegally used
cannabis, according to a Health Canada survey in 2015.

More frequent use by students has been tied to poorer academic
performance and increased absenteeism and is associated with memory
and cognition problems.

Legalization hopefully gives teachers more chances to have frank
discussions with students about cannabis use, said Rebecca
Haines-Saah, a University of Calgary community health sciences
professor who researches youth marijuana use.

Fear of legal consequences or suspension stops many youth from talking
to school staff about the risks, she said.

Andrea has questions about whether the mode of consumption should
matter - should schools allow pills or edibles, but prohibit smoking
or vaping on school property? He worries policing underage marijuana
use will fall to school staff.

School authorities have told the province's cannabis secretariat
they're concerned about where pot retailers will be located relative
to schools, said spokeswoman Jennifer Mitok in an email Tuesday.
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