Pot users sidestep varsity smoking ban

Abe Gray uses a cannabis vaporiser on the Union Lawn on Monday. Photo by ODT.
Abe Gray uses a cannabis vaporiser on the Union Lawn on Monday. Photo by ODT.
The University of Otago's smoke-free policy has come into force, but a cannabis reform group has found a way around the new rules.

The ban came into force on New Year's Day, but yesterday was the first real test of the new policy, with staff and students back on campus for the start of summer school.

Otago Norml spokesman Abe Gray said the group, which runs ''4:20'' protests on the University Union lawn where members smoke cannabis, said it would continue to run protests, but consume cannabis using vaporisers, which were not covered by the policy.

Mr Gray said if the university cracked down on the group and forced it off campus it would continue the protests in Cumberland St, outside the university's new visitor's centre.

''If they want us to be more prominent and right where the coaches pull up, then we can do that, but we would rather stay where we are.''

Co-chairwoman of the university's smoke-free campus implementation working group Prof Janet Hoek said the policy was largely aimed at tobacco smokers.

She confirmed the smoke-free policy did not include vaporisers or ''e-cigarettes'' but that could change, based on new research or Government policy, when the smoke-free rule was reviewed.

''Vaporising cannabis is actually against the law, so to some extent we don't need a policy which incorporates that,'' Prof Hoek said.

Given the long lead-in time, she did not think many would be caught flouting the new rules.

For those who were caught, the university would be taking an educational approach at first, but after that the university's usual disciplinary measures would be used.

No-one was seen breaking the new policy when the Otago Daily Times visited the campus yesterday. ''No smoking'' signs were visible at entrances to the campus and areas which used to be frequented by smokers.

One student smoker who left the campus to smoke and declined to be named, said the university was taking away people's ''freedom'' and should have at least included a designated smoking area.

- vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

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