Pubdate: Sat, 20 May 2017
Source: Observer, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017, Sarnia Observer
Author: Barbara Simpson
Page: A1


With Canada ready to legalize marijuana by next July, Ontario
municipalities are ablaze with activity prepping for the impacts of
that move - including in the workplace.

The County of Lambton recently held a training session for its 75
managers about marijuana and workplace safety. Among the chief
municipal concerns around legalization include the potential for
workers to believe it's legal for them to smoke marijuana on municipal
property, as well as the potential for impaired driving if a high
worker operates a municipal vehicle.

"All municipalities will have to deal with [marijuana] use at work
like we deal with alcohol use and tobacco use," said Lambton's chief
administrative officer Ron Van Horne, whose municipality employs up to
1,300 workers during its peak summer season.

But the use of marijuana has more complexity to it than alcohol use in
the workplace, human resource experts suggest, because medical
marijuana - already legal in Canada through prescription - is an
increasingly popular treatment option for those suffering from chronic
pain and other ailments.

In 2015, a City of Calgary heavy equipment operator, who was removed
from his post after management became aware of his medical marijuana
use, successfully won his case before an arbitration board. It found
the worker had properly informed his supervisors of his medical
marijuana use and there was no evidence he demonstrated signs of
addiction - something the city had argued - or had used marijuana
while at work.

Van Horne said the county will be developing workplace policies on the
use of marijuana, but he admitted it's a "very difficult issue" -
something being echoed right across the province.

While federal legislation will allow Canadians to sell, buy, possess
and grow marijuana - subject to certain parameters - each province is
expected to be responsible for determining its own age of majority, as
well as laws around distribution and retailing. All of that remains in
development as the federal government just tabled the legislation in
April to legalize marijuana by July 2018.

"I think most of (the municipalities) are trying to figure out where
things might land and anticipate," said Pat Vanini, executive director
of the Association of Municipalities Ontario (AMO).

Human resources officials with the Municipality of Chatham-Kent have
been busy educating themselves through webinars and meetings with
other HR officials about the impact the proposed legislation could
have on the workplace.

"We've identified that we'll need to do some updates to our policies
to make sure we're inclusive of the new legislation and once we've
done that...we'll communicate those out to the organization, so
everyone is up to speed on the changes," said Marianne Fenton, acting
chief human resources officer with the Municipality of

The municipality has 2,200 employees, including seasonal workers,
volunteer firefighters, students and contract workers.

But Ontario municipal governments don't just have to worry about
workplace policies.

The very public services they provide - like policing, zoning and
licensing - will also likely be impacted directly by marijuana

"(AMO has) been focused mostly on how do we manage this transition
from an illegal substance to a legal substance and working with the
province on how that looks like," said Vanini, head of the lobby group
that advocates on behalf of Ontario's 444 municipalities.

AMO recently established a marijuana legalization task force to
advocate to the province on behalf of municipalities that will need
more funding to beef up their services.

"I can assure you and your readers that municipal governments are
going to need some financial help if in fact they're going to be
involved in the policing of (marijuana), if they're going to be
involved in the licensing of it, if they're going to be involved from
a public health perspective - all sorts of things," Vanini said.

"These cannot become downloaded costs."
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