Dear Wise Ontario Government Officials,
I’ve been putting off writing this piece for a while thinking…it’s getting close- there must be something coming. But here I am – Saturday, October 13th and as of today Ontario educators have received no guidance or resources regarding the legalization of cannabis on October 17th.
For me, as a teacher- and parent- that is pretty scary. And frustrating.
I pondered a couple weeks ago whether I was mistaken, or had missed something – an email, resource package, memo… I asked my administration and they were as flabbergasted as I was.
School boards have received nothing ‘official’ to date. Did you know that? If you didn’t, it should concern you.
My superiors were also looking to their superiors for policies, resources, or anything to support this pretty significant change in their school. But there was nothing to share. That’s on you. All of you.
And don’t try that buck passing crap either, as you’ve all known this has been coming for some time now; two different governments have passed through Queen’s Park in the past 6 months that could have done something – anything – to support the educational roll out of cannabis. But you haven’t, and that’s inexcusable.
Based on this information stonewall, educators are feeling that the message is: government officials don’t believe the legalization of cannabis will significantly impact education curriculum and school policies in Ontario, but I’m writing to tell you that you’re sorely mistaken.
Ontario Schools Need Unique Cannabis Policies
The cannabis act in Ontario as rolled out by the Ford government now states that users can smoke cannabis “wherever people can currently smoke cigarettes”, which is 20 meters from children’s parks or schools – a very short distance.
Since in Ontario, users can be 19 or older, this puts many school leaders in a bit of a pickle. See, in secondary schools we have students who are 19 years or older. Therefore, based on what the new ‘law’ states if a 19 year old student decides to smoke a joint 20 meters from a secondary school then head on in, that’s ok?
And what about staff? Can a staff member head out to their car 20 meters from their school and smoke a joint or pop an edible over their lunch break? These questions seem trivial, but they require clear guidelines and answers. And we don’t have them.
A more complex problem involves the legal purchasing then sharing of cannabis by over age students (i.e. 19+) who can purchase cannabis legally. What school policies can be enacted to protect those under 19 from coming into contact with second hand cannabis smoke in the school smoking section or from the sharing of it in that area?
Yet another issue involves parents and community members. Can they simply light up a joint outside the school waiting to pick up their children as long as they are 20 meters from the building, which in some cases will be in school parking lots? Might want to consider that before it causes an uproar on social media…
The most challenging policies will involve use or sharing of edibles on school property. What will the consequences be for students (underage or of age) who bring edibles to school? What if a student ‘tricks’ or ‘accidentally’ coerces others into eating edibles, since they often look like candy? The consequences for these actions should be severe, but until they happen we don’t seem to have a plan for them – or even a deterrent for students who may think about trying something like this. Don’t think this will happen here? It already has south of the border: 5th grader accidentally gave out marijuana-laced gummies to kids at school.
School boards need a consistent message from the government so that they can form policies specific to school environments that seem to have fallen through the cracks in terms of the stipulations for cannabis roll out. Perhaps this is a work in progress we simply aren’t aware of quite yet? I’m hoping that’s the case.
Ontario Educators Need Training and Resources
Educators, by and larger, are pretty square. Many of us probably haven’t seen an edible up close or would know how to roll a joint – let alone how cannabis can impact the body and mind. Therefore, we’d like some information to properly educate our students about cannabis.
Ontario educators need to know what different forms of cannabis look like, how to differentiate legal from illegal cannabis, and significant information regarding how to educate students about cannabis. Yes, we could access this ourselves from your trusty cannabis website, but age specific information and resources created by educators would be much more beneficial and effective.
Cannabis will soon be part of many households in Ontario; kids need to know what it looks like and how it can impact them, so we can avoid inevitable situations like this: Child taken to hospital after eating edible cannabis gummies, and this: Doctors claim an 11-month old boy from Colorado is the first known case of death by marijuana.
The legalization of cannabis is a major cultural shift in our country, especially since (ahem) until now we’ve been telling kids that ‘drugs are bad’. Significant education is required to support our youth and their families in understanding how this change will impact their lives, those of their families and society at large.
We need government guidance to do this in a consistent and appropriate manner by investing some time and money in supporting Ontario educators with training and resources that support the legalization of cannabis.
What can YOU DO?
If you’re a government official in Ontario reading this informative blog from the perspective of a lowly teacher, take it seriously. I’m but one of many Ontario educators who feel lost in how to deal with the legalization of cannabis in our classrooms and schools.
We are your direct connection with the youth in our province; you need us to help facilitate this roll out to students and families, but until now we’ve been disregarded and ignored. It’s up to you to change that.
An Ontario Educator