Pubdate: Fri, 12 May 2017
Source: Telegram, The (CN NF)
Copyright: 2017 The Telegram
Author: Glen Whiffen
Page: A1


Torbay man's job is in limbo as workplaces wrestle with marijuana

Scott Tizzard has been wrestling with a two-pronged dilemma for the
past seven months.

And like the north poles of two magnets trying to meet, they repel
each other in his mind.

The first is his fight for his legal right to medical marijuana - the
only thing that works to ease the chronic pain from his diagnosed
osteoarthritis after trying a long list of medications his doctors
have prescribed over the years.

He also has Crohn's disease, and many medications for osteoarthritis
burn his stomach and cause a flare-up of the Crohn's.

The second battle is an inner, emotional one.

Should he throw in the towel, give up medical marijuana and try to get
back to work, and again endure the workday pain and sleepless nights?

He has been denied work because of issues surrounding medical
marijuana, and the long wait for his arbitration case to be heard is
daunting and mentally frustrating. He just wants to be back on the

"I did everything right. I followed the process," said Tizzard, who is
from Torbay.

"I have been at this seven months now, and I tell you, there are days
I just don't know if it's worth it. I feel like I'm really being
treated unfairly." Tizzard's union, the International Brotherhood of
Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1620, is expected to go to arbitration
on Tizzard's behalf with the companies involved during a hearing later
this month.

Tizzard has worked with companies under contract with Nalcor Energy,
the provincial energy corporation leading the Lower Churchill

Nalcor has alcohol- and drug-program requirements in place for
contractors bidding on Lower Churchill-related work, as well as its
own drug and alcohol rules for the Lower Churchill project.

"The drug and alcohol standard is based on the Canadian Model for
Providing a Safe Workplace," Nalcor said in a statement.

"Contractors must ensure that all workers deployed to any project site
are fit to safely and reliably perform their work duties, and that
these workers must remain fit for duty throughout their work shift and
free from impairment due to alcohol and/or drugs."

Tizzard has no problem with that. He says he would never risk being
impaired on a worksite, and is prepared to go above and beyond the
restrictions set by his doctor regarding his medical marijuana use.

His prescription is for 1 1/2 grams per day of herbal cannabis, with
THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) of less than 20 per cent, and
vapourized. After taking medicinal marijuana, Tizzard is restricted by
his doctor from driving or working for four hours.

He says he takes it only in the early evening after his shift ends -
more than double the four-hour time required before heading to work
the next morning.

Nalcor says its job site restriction policies on medical marijuana
pertaining to contractor employees are in accordance with the
guidelines set by Health Canada and the Government of Canada.

"Currently, Nalcor's Alcohol and Drug Program contains provisions such
that any employee required to use a prescribed or over the counter
medication (including medical marijuana), while on duty, would be
removed from safety sensitive positions," Nalcor said. "We will also
work with individual employees and their physicians on a case-by-case
basis to ensure the right restrictions or accommodations are put in
place for the safety of the individual employee, other employees and
the public."

Tizzard's problem is that most areas of the industrial sites he works
on are deemed safety sensitive, and employers still seem uncertain how
medical marijuana - and the pending legalization of marijuana - should
be handled in those workplaces.

Complicating the situation is the fact that there's no test to show a
person's precise level of impairment due to marijuana. Pre-employment
urine tests, or random urine tests, can only show the presence of THC
- - which, of course, would likely result in a positive test result for
medical marijuana users.

In an April 3 decision by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in the
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 vs. the Toronto Transit
Commission, a 10 nanograms per millilitre of blood cutoff level for
impairment by marijuana was approved.

The level can be obtained by a simple cheek swab test. However, the
swab has to be sent to a lab for testing and, meanwhile, the employee
being tested has to remain off work - not an ideal situation for
employer or employee.

Once the legal recreational use of marijuana comes into play - which
the federal government says should happen by July 2018 - the situation
will become even more challenging for workplaces.

Tomorrow: The legal in legalized weed
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