Know drug and alcohol policies
Employers updating drug and alcohol policies
The science on cannabis is advancing,but is still not settled. This poses a bigchallenge to employers who want tomake sure their workplaces are safe.
The federal government has setpenalties for drivers based on theamount of cannabis in their bloodstream(see sidebar, page 15). But the debate isfierce over whether those levels actuallymean a person is impaired. Canada hasopted to use guidelines developed forthe U.S. Department of Transportation.Some people have challenged the sciencebehind them.
Is there a safer way to use cannabis?
The Canadian government’s Lower-Risk Cannabis UseGuidelines contain 10 recommendations, includingabstinence, using less often and choosing non-smokingmethods. For more information, go to camh.ca andsearch for “lower-risk cannabis use guidelines.”
As a result, “A lot of these cases,
unfortunately, will be settled in court,”
says Cara Zwibel, director of the
Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s
Fundamental Freedoms Program.
“The absence of science makes it
In fact, Chuck Rifici, CEO of cannabis
industry investment firm Cannabis
Wheaton Income, recently said he
would commit up to $25,000 to fund
a court challenge.
Employers in Alberta must havealcohol and drug policies. Employeesare expected to know and comply withthose policies. Testing for substancesmay reduce risk, especially in safety-sensitive workplaces using heavyequipment. But it also raises concernsover a person’s right to privacy, unlawfuldiscrimination and what is a reasonableuse of management rights.
Random testing is hotly debated,because critics say it violates a person’sright to privacy.
Murray Elliott, president of Energy
Safety Canada (ESC), argues random
testing is a reasonable way to prevent
potential tragedy. “Employers need to
have every tool in the toolkit.”
Employers need to go with the best
available science, even if it is open to
challenge, Elliott says.
“We need some limits out there,”
he says. “Without those, we’re going to
have absolute chaos.”
In Colorado, legalization of non-
medical cannabis led to an uptick in
usage, but the increase slowed down
over time, says Paula Campkin, vice
president and chief safety officer for ESC.
ESC and the Construction OwnersAssociation of Alberta (COAA) havewritten a model drug and alcohol policy,Campkin says. It includes new forms oftesting, such as oral or urine tests. Theyexpect companies across the provincewill adopt the policy.
“It’s a reality that there’s a cost burdenassociated with this,” says Elliott. “Butwe believe impaired workers need to beremoved from the workplace until theyare no longer impaired.”|aFor more information, see ESC’s currentmodel. Go to enform.ca and click on theResources link near the top of the page,and then click on “View our resourcelist.”Find the COAA’s current guidelines atcoaa.ab.ca. Search for “Canadian model.”