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Chamber of Commerce discusses marijuana in the work place

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The federal government has plans to legalize recreational marijuana by July 2018.

On Thursday, the Fort McMurray Chamber of Commerce held a luncheon to discuss recreational and medical marijuana in the work place.

Kristi Pinkney Hines, owner and operator of Hines Health Services presented a wealth of information such as obtaining medical marijuana, setting restrictions in the work place and determining if someone is impaired.

Bill C-45 or The Cannabis Act, would allow individuals over the age of 18 to possess and share up to 30 grams of fresh or dried cannabis.

Hines noted that in the act there are not restrictions as to how employers deal with recreational marijuana in the work place.

“Employers will still have the right to set rules for non-medical marijuana use in the work place, in much the same way employers currently set rules for the use of alcohol,” said Hines.

“Employers may still prohibit the use of marijuana at the work or during work hours and may also prohibit employees from attending work while impaired, subject to human rights considerations.”

Doctors can prescribe medical marijuana to individuals when conventional therapies have been ruled ineffective.

Physicians are required to assess the patients risk for addiction, the quantity of marijuana in grams and the period of use, not to exceed a year.

“Authorization of medical marijuana doesn’t entitle an employee to be impaired at work, compromise his or her safety or the safety of others, smoke in the work place and have unexcused absences or late arrivals,” said Hines.

The duty to accommodate under provincial and federal human rights legislation extends to employees who use medical marijuana.

If employees are prescribed medical marijuana or voluntarily disclose a substance abuse disorder, safety sensitive tasks should be stopped.

Hines added that employers must take proper measures to prepare, recognize and address concerns of potential impairment in the work place.

“Cognitive signs of marijuana impairment would be anxiety, panic, hallucinations, withdrawal, euphoric, perceptional changes and slurred speech,” said Hines. “Some of the physiological signs would be red eyes, dry mouth, poor muscle coordination, delayed reaction time and increased appetite.”

The most common way to detect THC is a urine drug test.

“For a single THC use it can be detected in the urine for up to three days. For a chronic or heavy THC user it can be detected in your urine for 30 to 60 days,” said Hines. “It is important to remember there is no correlation between detection of THC and impairment.”

Other methods of testing include oral fluid swabs, blood tests and hair follicle drug testing.

Hines said if companies don’t have a drug and alcohol policy, now is the time to get one.

“I recently had my alcohol and drug policy completely revamped; it went from three pages to 30. In the policy, there is no grey areas that can be left up to interpretation. It is very detailed including work place rules, reasons to test, employer responsibilities and even social activities,” said Hines.

Hines said an drug and alcohol policy should address:

  • Work place impairment from prescription, over the counter, illegal and legal drugs
  • Ensure the policy is effectively implemented
  • Ensure employees have knowledge of consequences for failing to comply
  • Ensure employees are trained to know the signs of marijuana impairment