Pubdate: Thu, 17 Aug 2017
Source: Daily Press, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Sun Media
Author: Emma Meldrum
Page: A1


Timmins business owners had pot on the mind Wednesday morning.

About 40 people sat in on a presentation by lawyer Carly Stringer in
the Schumacher Lions Den in the McIntyre Centre. The event, organized
by the Timmins Chamber of Commerce, focused on employer and employee
obligations and rights regarding marijuana in the workplace.

"Marijuana is going to be arguably treated in the same way as any other 
prescription drug," said Stringer. But: "Having a prescription for 
marijuana, it doesn't entitle them to be impaired at work. It doesn't 
allow them to compromise the safety of anyone on the work site."

Stringer was careful to draw a line between medical marijuana and pot
for recreational purposes.

"Health Canada has reported that over 130,000 Canadians currently have
prescriptions for medical marijuana. They anticipate that that number
is going to increase to almost half a million over the next decade,"
she said.

With recreational pot set to be legalized by next year with the
Cannabis Act, there will be plenty of people smoking marijuana for
fun, too.

"Upwards of 40 per cent of Canadian adults have indicated that they
may (use) marijuana when it becomes legal," said Stringer.

And while medical pot should be treated like any other prescription
drug, recreational pot "should simply be treated as alcohol would be
treated in the workplace," she said.

Employers and managers from sectors like construction and mining took
notes and asked questions about workplace policy through the two-hour
long session.

Timmins Police Service Chief John Gauthier was present in a suit and
tie, rather than a policing uniform.

"This is a dynamic that's new to us, where it actually impacts
potential employees of mine and of the police service," said Gauthier.
"I just waned to know how it impacted the workplace and how we had to
prepare in light of the legislation that's going to be changed.

 From a policing standpoint, Gauthier is still waiting for tools which,
for example, would measure drivers' impairment levels.

"No one has come up with that. We're still waiting for the federal
government and scientists to actually come up with something that
would be an appropriate measure, like roadside screening devices and
so on," he said.

For employers, too, impairment will be a concern, said

"Assessing impairment is really tricky," she said, as tests can show
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) in the system, but not the level of THC,
which is responsible for the high provided by pot.

Stringer said impairment can affect cognitive function or physical

Stringer spent the morning explaining the ins and outs of marijuana in
the workplace, including how employers can address pot use, how to
accommodate an employee with a prescription and how policies can be
developed once pot is legalized.

"Under the new regime, possession of cannabis in a public place would
be legal, but it would be restricted to 30 dried grams for an adult,"
said Stringer, referencing the Cannabis Act, which hasn't yet been

"If you have policies in place that treat it as a crime, or if you
generally want to treat it that way in your workplace, that's just not
going to be the case anymore."

She said that legalization doesn't necessarily mean a free-for-all:
there will still be restrictions, and employers must ensure a safe

"From my perspective, most employers want the same thing, which is to
do right by their employees while mitigating risk to their business."

Stringer said the size of the group was unexpected.

"It's wonderful and I think it speaks as well to the importance of
this issue and a lot of the questions many people have about marijuana
in the workplace."

Carmen Swartz, manager of member services, said Stringer brought the
workshop idea to the Chamber.

"She mentioned that she has clients from the business community
approaching her with some concerns, some questions. She thought, if
it's a topic that's relevant right now, why don't we open it up to
other members," said Swartz.

"It's definitely going to continue to be a challenge for our business

"Whenever anything is new or is coming up, changes in legislation, our
business community wants to be ready and know what to do internally
when that happens," she said.

"The fact that it's becoming more and more popular, prescribed a lot
more, they want to know what their legal obligations are, and they
want to be able to accommodate their employees and still be successful
in their business."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pledged to legalize recreational
marijuana by July 1, 2018.
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