Pubdate: Sat, 20 Jan 2018
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Copyright: 2018 The London Free Press
Authors: Tamara L. McCarron and Fiona Clement O'Brien
Page: A10


Eating weed gummies at work? Marijuana rules may take a decade to sort

A customer walks into a downtown marijuana dispensary to browse the
hash menu for the perfect after-lunch pickup. Another flicks through
images in an online store, planning to purchase a selection as a
hostess gift.

Like it or not, this will be the reality across Canada after the
proposed Cannabis Act (Bill C-45) comes into force this summer.

Depending on which province or territory you live in, if you are of
legal age to purchase marijuana, you will soon be able to drop into a
licensed store or order it online from the comfort of your own home.

But the promised legalization date of July, 1, 2018, is approaching
fast. Many aspects of marijuana regulation will not be finalized by

We are both researchers from the O'Brien Institute for Public Health
at the University of Calgary. Together with colleagues in the Health
Technology Assessment Unit, we have produced a series of five
evidence-based reports to help inform and support policy development
in this area by the government of Alberta.

We suggest that marijuana regulation in Canada might be a 10-year
project. There are some key issues that urgently need to be decided
before legalization this year - such as online sales and occupational
health and safety. Others - such as regulating cannabis edibles -
might need to be shelved for a later date.

In 2016, a Canadian task force was appointed to make recommendations
on a new framework to support the production and sales of recreational

Bill C-45 still needs final approval from the Senate. But the
provinces and territories have begun the preparation for this eventual

The policy environment is like three concentric circles, with each
level of higher government setting the boundaries of the lower
government's regulations.

Nationally, the focus has primarily been on youth, enforcement and

Within the provinces and territories, the conversation has been
focused on minimum age, impairment and where to sell and by whom.

Variations could result in confusion (such as different age minimums)
or provide unwanted advantages (lower taxation levels could boost
sales in a particular province).

Cities will be left to deal with bylaw issues - such as public
consumption and policing. Here again, there will be a number of
variations in policy and resources within municipal

A major issue facing each province and territory is how and where
marijuana will be sold.

Most producers are likely to want to provide online "delivery to your
door" services. Many already do so for medical marijuana and are
poised to expand their presence after legalization.

Provinces will need to decide if they will allow online sales and how
they expect retailers to enforce minimum age requirements. Purchasing
online with home delivery creates additional issues that still need to
be worked out. It is, after all, pretty easy to lie about your age to
a computer screen.

Employers will have an interesting challenge. What are acceptable
levels of impairment and how will we test and enforce them?

For safety-sensitive occupations, many companies already have random
work-site testing with a zero tolerance policy for alcohol and other
impairing substances. For other occupations, smoking a joint with your
coffee will be legal. But how will that be balanced with the
expectation to work without impairment?

Freedom and privacy will be at the forefront of this debate. How
employers will balance safety, privacy and their "duty to accommodate"
employees who use medical marijuana is still not known.

At minimum, employers may need to revisit workplace policies in order
to balance the needs of employees who require the use of marijuana and
the safety of their workplaces.

Our hunch is that occupational health and safety issues will
eventually be settled through the courts rather than through
development of good sound policy.

Marijuana edibles come in all forms, from chocolate bars to gummy
bears. These familiar-looking, colourful items are already a big hit
in Colorado where marijuana was legalized in 2014.

Marijuana-infused edibles will likely continue the myth of cannabis as
a natural alternative with no harms. They may also increase the
likelihood that children will accidentally consume these products. We
need to learn more.

What regulations or approaches limit accidental ingestion? How will
the introduction of edibles influence the number of users and their
use patterns? How will edibles affect impairment levels differently
than smoked product? These are just a few of the issues that we know
very little about.

Edibles are an easy part of the market to carve off and deal with

The issues surrounding their inclusion are complicated and, wisely,
several of the provinces have already stated that they will not allow
edibles in the July 2018 regulations.

Canada is only the second country in the world to legalize marijuana
(or the 10th jurisdiction if we count all the states in the U.S.). We
will have to learn most of the lessons ourselves. Policy shortcomings
or failings are inevitable.

We should expect to make continual adjustments, modifications and
regulations over the next 10 years as we try to achieve the desired
goals of limiting the black market, decreasing the justice system
drain and protecting youth.

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Tamara L. McCarron is a PhD candidate in community health sciences and 
Fiona Clement is an assistant professor and director of the Health 
Technology Assessment
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