Students at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada who have ingested too much cannabis will have a safe space to come down from their high. The university announced recently that students stoned on marijuana will be now be allowed to make use of the Post-Alcohol Support Space. The facility was launched in January of this year as a way to keep students drunk on alcohol safe from harm.
“The PASS initiative was developed around three key principles: to make the space supportive, nonjudgmental and consequence free,” according to the University of Calgary website. “A stay at the PASS won’t trigger communications to professors or family members and it doesn’t go on any record, academic or otherwise.”
Originally, the PASS facility was intended only for students who had been using alcohol. But when it was determined that some of the students who had used the service its first semester of operation were also high on marijuana, that policy was changed. The move comes as Canada is set to legalize the recreational use of cannabis next month.
The PASS room is now open to students who have used too much alcohol, cannabis, or both substances. Students must be verbal and mobile and must not have sustained any major injuries.
Keeping Students Safe
Debbie Buckner, the senior director of student wellness at the University of Calgary, said that the new policy will help keep students safe.
“We know that combining alcohol and cannabis will compound their effects, which some might not be prepared for,” said Buckner. “We know telling someone not to take a substance doesn’t work. It’s about educating people.”
The PASS facility is currently open on Thursday nights, which university officials have determined is the most popular time for on-campus partying, and during on-campus special events. Students may gain access to the center through a referral from the Student Medical Response team.
When open, the PASS room is staffed by a registered nurse and volunteers from the Student Medical Response unit. After being evaluated, students may choose to be discharged, stay in the PASS overnight, be transported to a hospital, or leave with a responsible adult. Beds are available and staff monitors the medical condition of those who choose to stay.
Linda Hastie, a nurse and manager at the university’s health center, said that mixing cannabis and alcohol can be risky.
“When alcohol intoxication is mixed with cannabis, even in edible form, it dangerously increases the risk of vomiting and aspirating, passing out somewhere unsafe, mood variability, and motor impairment,” Hastie said.
Harm Reduction Is The Goal
Hastie said that the university is working to spread the word about the new facility, which assisted eight students its first semester in use.
“It’s important for people to know the PASS is there if they’re feeling out of control or unsafe — even if they’re just unsure how to get home,” she said.
Buckner said that the PASS center continues the goal of harm reduction for the student population. The University of Calgary harm reduction initiatives also include resources to identify and support students at risk and the confidential distribution of naloxone kits.
“This shows we are taking care of our campus community,” Buckner said.
“People who are impaired are vulnerable,” she added. “If people make the choice to use substances, they don’t have to hide that. We’re here for them.”