Students and experts say UBC Housing's drug policy promotes stigma. But, Housing doesn't seem interested in changing it.

UBC Housing has not indicated that it would change its policy around illegal drug use in student residences, despite concern from students and experts around the harmful language of this policy.

According to Section 3.10 of the UBC student resident contract, students found possessing, using, trafficking, offering or even being around those using illegal drugs can lead to eviction or police involvement.

The only exceptions to this rule is that students are allowed to store cannabis and cannabis equipment in airtight and well-labelled containers in their rooms, according to clause 3.10A.

During a recent Board of Governors People, Community & International Committee meeting, student Board representative Max Holmes said this language promotes stigma surrounding drug use and could deter students from seeking naloxone kits in residence. He added that international students might be hesitant to access this resource for fear of being deported.

Andrew Parr, vice president of SHCS, told The Ubyssey in a written statement that there are “very few circumstances” of reported illegal drug use in UBC housing and that staff prioritize the wellbeing of residents in these instances.

“Staff will work to address the situation with the aim of reducing harm and ensuring that the student is connected to resources that promote the safer consumption of substances,” he said.

Parr added that in the last three years, illegal substance use, possession or trafficking only resulted in one eviction from residence where there was a repetitive and significant impact on other residents.

He did not indicate if there were any plans to change this policy.

Mark Harden, adjunct professor in the school of epidemiology and previous worker for Vancouver Coastal Health Addiction Services, said the current policy is harmful to students and contradictory to the university’s commitment to inclusivity.

“It’s not inclusive, it was very marginalizing. Inclusion includes everybody, including people with things like opiate use disorders,” he said. An opiate use disorder is defined as a person who continuously uses opioids and has a strong physical dependence on them where it causes harm to themselves or others.

“[The current policy] also assumes that all drug use is harmful. And again, that's not evidence-based because some drug use is helpful depending on what you're doing and how you're doing it,” added Harden.

He noted that alcohol — which is generally more harmful than other illegal drugs — is treated differently by UBC Housing.

“I would think you should have one policy, which is an alcohol and drug policy that talks about people needing to control their behaviours and then you have a harm reductionist approach for the actual use for all drugs,” he said.