Pubdate: Sat, 03 Mar 2018
Source: Telegram, The (CN NF)
Copyright: 2018 The Telegram
Author: Sam McNeish
Page: A5


Lawyer Denis Mahoney outlines a plan for employers surrounding the
legalization of cannabis in Canada

How are employers going to deal with the use of cannabis in the
workplace once it becomes legal later this year?

According to lawyer Denis Mahoney, a partner with Mcinnes Cooper in
St. John's, speaking to delegates at the 50th anniversary conference
of the Newfoundland and Labrador Construction Association (NLCA) on
Friday, there are many questions that need to be answered first.

"We are really concerned about this at the employers' council because
as I can tell you in our business today, the No. 1 issue we are
working with clients on today, above all else, is this particular
topic," Mahoney said.

"Make sure you go back and look at your policy, because right now
marijuana is listed as an illegal drug. You have to change its status
and so therefore your policy is out of date. If you are treating it as
under the current rules, it's right for today, but come passing of
that law, it is out of date," he said.

Mahoney said there are a host of hoops for employers to jump through
that could be contentious for everyone in terms of safety at the
workplace dealing with an impaired colleague.

In addition, the steps that need to be taken to deal with that
employee have a host of grey areas that make it difficult or
practically impossible to sanction that person.

"I am asking the NLCA and the people sitting around this room, if you
have a friend in government, anywhere where you can do some advocacy,
this is an area where the legislation right now under our Occupational
Health and Safety Act … the only thing that is in our legislation
right now that touches on this issue has been there since I started
practicing in health and safety, and it's Section 26 of the
regulations," he said.

Mahoney said Section 26 deals with employees working with a medically
documented mental impairment - something that can be applied to
medically authorized marijuana.

The regulations have a relationship with medically authorized
marijuana, and Mahoney says an employee cannot be assigned to work
where it impairs the health and safety of that worker, and all parties
should be talking more about that section right now and how it can be
used to manage these cases.

"This is where I do think this is insufficient legal protection … the
legislation does need to change, in my view. It says an employer,
supervisor or worker shall not enter or remain on the premises,
workplace or at a job site while his or her ability to perform work
responsibilities is impaired by an intoxicating substance."

Mahoney said he is concerned with Health Canada policies pertaining to
a classification and use of marijuana.

"When you talk about contradictions in our country, Health Canada says
that marijuanais not listed in Canada as a therapeutic drug. They are
not satisfied that marijuana is an effective treatment for any medical
condition in Canada, therefore it is not a recognized therapeutic drug
on the list of drugs in Canada," he said.

"But at the same time, guess who's regulating the licensors and the
producers of the medically authorized marijuana that physicians cannot
allow a person to buy or grow themselves? … Health Canada."

He added that even though it is not a recognized therapeutic drug,
Health Canada is controlling the system that allows people to utilize
it as a form of treatment.

"Since 2001, people in Canada have been prescribed medical marijuana.
How many of you were dealing with this is 2005? Were you dealing with
this in 2015, 2016, 2017? It was just starting to grow.

"So, you have got to have your policy ready and make sure you
recognize in the same way that you talk about prescription drugs, that
you need to put medically authorized marijuana in that category."

Mahoney said the five main steps to use when looking at an employee
who might be impaired include: observe, confirm, confront, test and

In addition, he said there needs to be some training done, as it is
critical to know the processes that must be employed.

Experts with knowledge of marijuana should be used when drafting
policies, he added.

Mahoney said he employed one of those experts to get some first-hand
policy advise.

"My mother-in-law told me, just before Christmas, that with all her
ailments, she went to her doctor and asked for medical marijuana and
she got it like that," he said, snapping his fingers.

"It's just an indication to me how close to home it is. There are
people in the audience that have people that are using medically
authorized marijuana and some people are concerned about it because of
the information I want to share with you about what is medicine in
Canada and what is not, so I can give you the correct labelling of
what medically authorized marijuana is."

The incoming legislation is supposed to take effect in July 2018 and
will target recreational users.

It is supposed to cover purchases from a retailer or federally
licensed producer. Under the new legislation, people will be able to
possess or carry 30 grams of marijuana in public, must be 18 years of
age (19 in Newfoundland and Labrador) and can grow up to four plants,
each no greater than one metre in height.

Making edibles will also be permissible.
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