There is confusion and a tendency for people, who would not normally try a substance, to try it just because it has become legal. July 1, 2018 is the date set for the legalization of cannabis across Canada. The Cannabis Act does not address anything related to occupational health and safety; although, the bill does say that regulations could be introduced with respect to smoking at work.
Other drug and alcohol use in workplaces is known to be a pressing safety concern. The legalization of marijuana compounds this concern of impairment in “using” workers and for their coworkers.
The effects of cannabis are wide-ranging and affect every user differently, from alertness, decision-making, hand-eye coordination to response times. These are called performance deficits that may last up to 48 hours even after low-doses of use, unlike alcohol, which the body expels in a shorter period.
In 2006, a UK study found that cannabis use had “significant detrimental impact on safety”. Those who admitted using cannabis had
1. a 34% increase in work-related incidents
2. a 17% increase in minor injuries at work
3. 33% increase in work-related road collisions
All employers are legally required to ensure the safety of their workers by controlling hazards, including hazards related to drug use. The impact of legalization of marijuana complicates an employer’s liability which could result in civil and criminal charges. There must be more clarification and government guidance for measuring competence to work, drive machinery and otherwise carry out job tasks.
“Marijuana use is incompatible with working in a safety sensitive environment. Until there is clear evidence and complete understanding of what level of impairment is deemed to be considered “safe”, a zero tolerance policy regarding the presence of marijuana is the only safe choice,” says Cameron MacGillivray, president and CEO of Enform in Alberta.