Pubdate: Wed, 05 Apr 2017
Source: Telegram, The (CN NF)
Copyright: 2017 The Telegram
Author: Glen Whiffen
Page: A1


Worker claims companies refusing him jobs because of medical marijuana

Scott Tizzard of Torbay says he is being discriminated against by
companies he should have been working for over the past several
months. The Reason? Taking his doctor-prescribed medical marijuana.

Tizzard has worked construction in the province for 30 years, going
from big project to big project wherever the work has taken him, and
wherever dispatched by his union.

Described by co-workers as a hard worker, for many of those years he'd
worked long-hour days battling the pain and discomfort of Crohn's
disease and osteoarthritis.

He's been prescribed countless medications by his family doctor over
the years, trying to find a balance of medications that would counter
the pain of the osteoarthritis and not cause his Crohn's disease to
flare up.

That often failed until his doctor suggested medical

"The catch with me is that I have Crohn's disease and osteoarthritis.
So, in taking the pills for the osteoarthritis it burns the stomach
out of me from the Crohn's disease," Tizzard said. "I put in some
awful days at work, doing everything I can like skipping lunch so the
Crohn's wouldn't act up.

"My prescription is a gram and half a day, at 22 per cent THC
(tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in cannabis), and I don't
smoke it at work. I only smoke in the evenings when I get home to
relax me so I can get a night's sleep. I suffer it out during the day.
All the marijuana does is make me comfortable when I get home and
gives me a good night's sleep."

Tizzard was working on a major contract last April related to the
Lower Churchill project when he first started the process of receiving
medical marijuana, and filled his first prescription in early May.
Immediately, he informed his supervisor of the prescription and
nothing changed. He continued to work every day and take his medical
marijuana at night. "My first prescription was filled on May 6 and I
let my superintendent know the first day I got my card," he said. "The
union told me, when I actually got the card, that if I disclosed it to
the company I was working with at the time, they could very well ask
me to leave the site. But, if they did, the union would be 100 per
cent behind me and would fight it.

"I had to tell the company about it. If I didn't and if there was an
incident, I would have had to get a drug test."

Tizzard got laid off from that job last October when the work ended
and was immediately placed at the top of the union list (in part
because he was a shop steward) to be dispatched to another job by the
IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) Local 1620.

In November 2016, Tizzard bid on a job and was dispatched by the union
to that job providing he take a drug and alcohol test as is required,
and was accepted by the company.

"When I went to the Fit for Work place, the union told me that when
you go present your (medical marijuana) card and you should be good to
go," he said. "When I showed up for my drug and alcohol test the lady
said, 'no, we don't take those. The lab will call you and inform you
that you failed the test, and you have to disclose that to the company'."

The laboratory in North Bay, Ont., did call Tizzard and informed him
he had THC in his system and that he failed the test.

"I said yes, I knew I would, I have a medicinal marijuana prescription
and it was noted on the bottom of the paper you asked me to fill out.
There are only three prescriptions on it - two for Crohn's disease and
the one for medicinal cannabis," Tizzard said. "He said he must have
overlooked it. I asked him if he'd disclose it to the company for me
and he said yes. Two buddies who took the test the same time as me for
the same type of job began work and I still didn't receive a call.

"So I called the company and a woman told me the lab called and told
them that I failed the test. She said the lab didn't inform them that
I had a medical marijuana card. The woman then said I'd have to get a
note from my doctor."

Tizzard obtained a note from his doctor. The note, from the
Cannabinoid Medical Clinic, states that Tizzard "is being treated for
chronic pain from osteoarthritis and does not take anything during the
work day, but puts up with the pain, which is fatiguing.

"He has trialled multiple pain medications through his family doctor,
with very poor GI tolerance because of his Crohn's disease."

The note outlines a long list of medications Tizzard has tried in the
past four years without success, and that he is currently prescribed
1.5 grams per day of herbal cannabis, THC less than 20 per cent,
vaporized. And after taking his medicinal marijuana, Tizzard is
restricted from driving or working for four hours.

Tizzard said from the time he takes his medical marijuana in the early
evening to the time he goes to work the next morning, it is well over
four hours and there is, in his opinion, no issue regarding being
impaired on the job.

"I got the doctor's letter, emailed it off to the company and they
come back with more papers for the doctor to fill out," he said. "They
sent me three pdf files on my phone. My doctor was like, 'no, I can't
fill them out' because of the time and the fact they wanted a very
detailed medical history.

"Then they wanted me to sign a consent form so they could access my
medical file. I said 'no' you are not getting access to my medical
file and my union agreed that the letter from my doctor, with the
prescription information, the medical conditions, the previous
medications I had been prescribed and why I'm taking it should be
enough information."

In February, Tizzard bid on another job and ran into the same kind of

Over the past number of months, IBEW Local 1620 has been working with
Tizzard on the case and trying to negotiate and grieve the issue
against the companies.

Don Murphy, business manager with IBEW Local 1620, told The Telegram
that the union could not comment on a specific member's case but said
the issue of medicinal marijuana is new ground for a union to be
dealing with.

"Impairment, specifically relating to employment, is very concerning.
Local 1620 does not in any way support workers to be impaired
whatsoever on the job," he said. "Workers have to be safe. We have
very strong language in all our collective agreements committing to

"The present challenge for us, as a union, is that we have to
represent all our members to ensure they are being treated fairly. I,
like employers, wish we could turn a blind eye to our medicinal
marijuana workers but for a union, it is law that a union has to
represent them. Having said that, we are co-operatively working
through these issues with our employers."

New territory

The issue of medical marijuana - and the likelihood of legalization of
marijuana in the next couple of years - is new territory for
employers, unions, justice departments and professional health
organizations to deal with.

There's an old stigma attached to marijuana that creates challenges in
dealing with medical marijuana, combined with a lack of clear
legislation. Health Canada is constantly developing and updating its
regulations as medical marijuana is being prescribed for an increasing
number of health conditions, as well as the pending legalization of
the substance.

The federal government has stated it is aiming to make marijuana legal
for recreational use by July of 2018.

Nalcor Energy, the province's energy corporation leading the Lower
Churchill development, like other major corporations, has in place
alcohol and drug program requirements for contractors bidding on Lower
Churchill-related work.

A document outlines the minimum requirements contractors must have in
place for its employees and site safety, to ensure that employees are
not impaired by drug or alcohol on the job.

"I don't want to be impaired on the job. I will abide by the doctor's
restrictions," Tizzard said. "I followed all the right avenues in
doing this. I'm not one to try to hide it, to not disclose it. Why is
it legal to issue it if you are not allowed to use it? They should
have given me a disability card to go with it, if it is this much
trouble. It's nothing but a runaround, a nightmare.

"I haven't been able to work for months because of this and I should
have been at work. If I didn't have some money put away I'd be at the
food bank by now.

"I don't know what to do, other than quit taking my medication so I
can go to work. And that defeats the purpose. It's a medical
prescription like other medications prescribed by doctors. As far as
I'm concerned I was declined work, discriminated against, because I
was legally prescribed medicinal marijuana for my health issues."
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