HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Easing Pot Laws Bad For Economy, Warns Big Business
Pubdate: Mon, 22 Nov 2004
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2004 The Edmonton Journal
Author: Robert Fife, CanWest News Service
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Studies Show More Absenteeism, Injuries On Job

OTTAWA - Canada's largest and most influential business group is
urging the federal government to delay passage of legislation to
decriminalize marijuana until a thorough study has been conducted of
its impact on the workplace.

The Canadian Council of Chief Executives, which represents 150 major
multinational corporations, warns that pushing ahead with the pot law
could harm the economy through a higher number of injuries,
absenteeism and poor job performance.

Executive vice-president David Stewart-Patterson said it is estimated
that substance abuse in the workplace costs the economy at least $18.4
billion annually and that is likely to be exacerbated by the
relaxation of the cannabis law.

U.S. Ambassador Paul Cellucci has already predicted that a more
liberal marijuana law in Canada would result in a U.S. border
crackdown at already congested border crossings, which cost Canadians
billions of dollars annually.

Stewart-Patterson said it is imperative for Ottawa to conduct a major
study of how marijuana affects job performance before it wipes out
criminal penalties for possession of less than 15 grams of marijuana
and hashish.

There are only a few known studies of the effects of cannabis use in
the workplace but none has been done in Canada, according to
Stewart-Patterson, whose organization has been researching the subject.

Stewart-Patterson points to a 1999 study of New Zealand forestry
workers which suggests that looser drug laws in Canada could lead to
higher on-the-job injuries and lost days.

The study by Canterbury University in Christchurch discovered cannabis
users in New Zealand's forestry sector had almost three times as many
lost-time injuries as non-users and twice the number of sick days.

Although the users said getting stoned helped them relax and do a
"better quality job," the study concluded that cannabis use actually
increased their fatigue and the chance they would make errors in
judgment and get involved in an accident.

"Maybe it would be a good idea to do our homework and figure out what
those costs might be so we can make an informed choice before going
ahead with the bill," said Stewart-Patterson.

The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse also lists a 1996 study by
Texas Christian University of marijuana use among 4,600 municipal
employees in four cities in the U.S. Southwest.

About eight per cent were marijuana users and the survey found these
workers reported more absenteeism, tardiness, accidents, workers'
compensation claims and job turnover than workers who had not used the

Patterson said major corporations are concerned decriminalization
would only encourage more workers to smoke cannabis and this would
have a negative effect on the workplace.

He points to a 1992 study by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse
that found the total cost of drug and alcohol abuse on the job was
$18.4 billion annually.

However, Stewart-Patterson said that study did not break out the costs
of legal and illegal drugs in the workplace, which is why the business
group is calling for a delay in the bill's passage until more
information is gathered.

The legislation before Parliament would impose fines of $150 for
adults and $100 for minors who are caught in possession of up to 15
grams of cannabis. The bill also proposes tougher sentences for those
who produce the drug as part of a wider effort to stamp out grow-ops.
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