Pubdate: Fri, 22 Sep 2017
Source: Fort McMurray Today (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 Fort McMurray Today
Author: Vincent McDermott
Page: 3


Employers at a luncheon hosted by the Fort McMurray Chamber of
Commerce were warned it was time to update their policies on
medications and impairment, as the federal government plans to
legalize recreational marijuana use next summer.

During the Thursday afternoon meeting, members of Wood Buffalo's
business community were given a presentation on what the future
legislation will look like, what rights staff will have and the role
employers can play in securing workplace safety.

"With the legislation coming, and it will almost certainly pass, these
issues will only grow and you will have to deal with it as an
employers," said lawyer Michael Jones of Stringam LLP. "Safety is key,
as is protecting human rights of the people you work with and who
works for you."

Much of the presentation from Jones and Kristi Hines, a registered
nurse and the occupational health director of Hines Health Services in
Fort McMurray, also focused on what the legislation says about
medicinal and recreational usage, as well as safety policies. Hines
also discussed health and social trends observed in Colorado after
that state legalized recreational marijuana use in 2014.

Both Hines and Jones suggested employers should create a thorough drug
and alcohol plan addressing impairment that reflects the upcoming
policy. Jones advised employers take the time to also include other
medications that could impair workers.

Those in attendance were also reminded that now was the time to create
and update policies on allowing staff the chance to seek treatment for
addictions issues.

"It's fair to say as we come closer to legalization, it is possible
addiction will become more of an issue," said Jones. "I can't stress
that enough, that if you have someone who has an addictionÂ… that is an
illness. As an employer, it has to be dealt with as an illness."

Buying marijuana for recreational use is expected to be legal in
Canada by July 2018, after the Liberal government introduced
legislation last April.

Other levels of government are using the time to resolve critical
questions, including how cannabis will be distributed, where it can be
consumed and impacts on workplaces.

The municipality is reviewing parameters on how marijuana dispensaries
can operate in Wood Buffalo, as well as usage near public spaces.

"From a legal perspective, they can't come to work unable to function
at work," said Jones. "If you come to work drunk, here's our policy.
Using marijuana and coming to work impaired will have to be dealt with
in that manner."

Most people at the luncheon represented businesses based in Fort
McMurray, rather than representatives of large oilsands operators.

However, marijuana legalization has Alberta's energy industry worried
about its impacts on workplace safety and performance. On-the-job drug
testing is still practiced within the oilsands, although many labour
groups - including Unifor and the Alberta Federation of Labour -
consider this an invasion of privacy.

"We are going into uncharted territory," said Hines. "So it's going to
be a balancing act."
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MAP posted-by: Matt