Pubdate: Wed, 24 Jan 2018
Source: Daily Press, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2018 Sun Media
Author: Emma Meldrum
Page: A1


Joelle Charbonneau has three words in mind as recreational marijuana's
legalization approaches.

"Train, train, train," said Charbonneau. "Information is key."

The operations manager at JTR & Custom Works attended a Timmins
Chamber of Commerce presentation at the Schumacher Lions Club Tuesday,
where lawyer Carly Stringer explained employers' legal obligations
regarding cannabis in the workplace.

"(I wanted) to be informed of the new legislation changes, and to
ensure that we'll be in compliance with the laws and regulations
concerning marijuana in the workplace," said Charbonneau.

She said she plans on ensuring her policies and procedures are in
place for July 1, while training her employees on what their rights
and obligations are concerning marijuana at work.

"It's going to be quite the dynamic situation for small businesses
especially, and we just have to ensure that we have a transparent
relationship with our employees and make sure that everyone stays
honest and communicates," she said. "I think we'll be alright."

Charbonneau said the company works in mining and forestry in an
industrial setting - a workplace that's "high risk" when it comes to
safety being affected by impairment.

Stringer spent the better part of Tuesday morning explaining how
employers should prepare for recreational marijuana's legalization -
including rights, obligations and the importance of having a policy in

"It's not a free for all," Stringer told business owners and managers.
"There are still some limitations. "It's meant for personal use, so
you can't have an employee showing up with a 45-pound bag of marijuana."

The lawyer fielded several questions on the extent to which an
employer should accommodate a staff member with a prescription for
medical marijuana.

"Assessing impairment is very, very difficult in the context of
marijuana," she said.

Stringer explained that an illness or condition requiring a medical
marijuana prescription is classified as a disability, meaning
employers must try to accommodate their employee under the Ontario
Human Rights Code.

"It's fairly nuanced because the Human Rights Code and the framework
we work in necessarily requires a lot of context and considering the
specific circumstances of an individual employee," Stringer told
reporters after the presentation. "What might be accommodation from
one worker might look different for another.

"People don't really like that. They want to have hard-and-fast rules,
and they want to be able to apply them across the board, and they
don't like when the gray area comes up. The unfortunate reality is
that there is likely always some gray area in this, and you need to
look at individual circumstances of the employee and your workplace at
any given time to see what's available and what you can do."

Stringer said she advises her clients to be mindful "of their own
preconceived ideas that they might have, or stereotypical assumptions,
and even that mindfulness will automatically cause them to pause when
they're dealing with a scenario involving marijuana in the workplace."

She said employees, too, have rights and obligations when it comes to
marijuana, safety and impairment in the workplace.

"If you're concerned at some level that your rights have been violated
. keep in mind the obligations to accommodate for medical marijuana
and substance abuse issues under the Human Rights Code.

"If you're really concerned that your rights have been violated, it
may be worth speaking to a lawyer."

Stringer provided attendees with an idea of what components should be
included in a policy that would aim to maintain a safe workplace,
including self-reporting addiction, employee obligations to disclose
prescriptions that could impair them and how drug testing would work
in safety-sensitive roles.
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