Lib­er­als eyed rules for cannabis use by work­ers, drug test­ing, doc­u­ments show

St. Thomas Times-Journal - - NATIONAL NEWS - JOR­DAN PRESS

OT­TAWA — Fed­eral of­fi­cials have qui­etly probed pos­si­ble new work­place rules for em­ploy­ees who show up to work high af­ter cannabis is le­gal­ized next week, newly re­leased doc­u­ments show.

The doc­u­ments ob­tained by The Cana­dian Press un­der the ac­cess to-in­for­ma­tion law show Labour Min­is­ter Patty Ha­jdu was given op­tions to deal with cannabis im­pair­ment in the work­place in early June as of­fi­cials ironed out the de­tails of any new pol­icy.

Fed­eral de­part­ments were wrestling at the time with their own re­sponse to work­ers who may smoke or vape pot, but were also qui­etly told Ha­jdu was con­sid­er­ing changes to the Canada Labour Code — in­clud­ing whether and how to al­low for manda­tory drug test­ing for em­ploy­ees.

Of­fi­cials said Wed­nes­day that no new rules will be rolled out over the next week. In­stead, com­pa­nies are only be­ing told to set up their own sub­stance use poli­cies that clearly lay out what is al­lowed and the con­se­quences if some­one is im­paired.

“Fed­er­ally reg­u­lated em­ploy­ers do not tol­er­ate im­pair­ment on the job — that does not change on Oc­to­ber 17th,” Ha­jdu said in a state­ment.

She said her of­fi­cials were go­ing to work with em­ployer and labour groups to bet­ter gauge the ef­fects of cannabis le­gal­iza­tion on work­place health and safety. The gov­ern­ment will take “an ev­i­dence-based ap­proach to pre­vent and re­spond to im­pair­ment in the work­place,” she added.

There are cur­rently no fed­eral labour rules about drug and al­co­hol test­ing out­side the mil­i­tary and suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments from the late 1980s have stayed away from the is­sue.

A fed­er­ally struck com­mit­tee of com­pa­nies and work­ers de­bated the idea for two years, but ended up be­ing split be­tween labour groups who ar­gued the cur­rent labour rules were enough in the ab­sence of any cred­i­ble data, and em­ployer groups who be­lieved the sta­tus quo wasn’t an op­tion.

A Jus­tice De­part­ment pre­sen­ta­tion to the com­mit­tee noted that the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment has ap­proved saliva tests for road­side drug tests, which “could be con­sid­ered suf­fi­ciently re­li­able for de­tect­ing drug use among em­ploy­ees.” The test only proves the pres­ence of THC, the main psy­choac­tive in­gre­di­ent in cannabis, “and does not prove im­pair­ment.”

Fed­eral of­fi­cials brief­ing re­porters Wed­nes­day on a not-for-at­tri­bu­tion ba­sis wouldn’t say what ad­vice they have pro­vided com­pa­nies whose em­ploy­ees can be sub­jected to drug tests.

Der­rick Hynes, pres­i­dent of FETCO, an as­so­ci­a­tion of fed­er­ally-reg­u­lated em­ploy­ers, said his mem­bers want rules around drug test­ing for spe­cific jobs where there is a risk to the pub­lic.

“We’ve never ar­gued that the sky is fall­ing,” Hynes said.

“What we’re look­ing for here are pre­ven­ta­tive mech­a­nisms that can change be­hav­iour to en­sure that those few in­stances where this might hap­pen don’t slip through the cracks.”

The labour code ap­plies to all fed­er­ally reg­u­lated work­places, which em­ploy about one-tenth of all work­ers in the coun­try. It re­quires com­pa­nies to elim­i­nate any haz­ards, while em­ploy­ees are ex­pected to work safely. Labour groups say those rules should suf­fice un­less there is am­ple ev­i­dence that work­ers are show­ing up high and cre­at­ing a safety risk.

“No­body has put for­ward ev­i­dence of any kind that we have a ma­jor cri­sis on our hands,” said Has­san Yus­suff, pres­i­dent of the Cana­dian Labour Congress.

“Peo­ple are go­ing to try it. We just have to make sure that doesn’t af­fect them when they come to work.”

The gov­ern­ment is in­volved in a first-of-its-kind study in Canada to get a clearer pic­ture of cannabis use in work­places both be­fore and af­ter le­gal­iza­tion. Early re­sults from the sur­vey of more than 2,000 work­ers should be avail­able later this year.

“This is cer­tainly some­thing that is al­ready hap­pen­ing in work­places to­day and em­ploy­ers are al­ready deal­ing with it,” said lead re­searcher Nancy Carnide from the In­sti­tute for Work & Health.

“The more ev­i­dence we have to in­form poli­cies, prac­tices, pro­grams is so im­por­tant, rather than knee-jerk re­sponses.”

JONATHAN HAY­WARD/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

A flow­er­ing cannabis plant is seen at Blissco Cannabis Corp. in Lan­g­ley, B.C. Fed­eral of­fi­cials have qui­etly probed pos­si­ble new work­place rules for em­ploy­ees who show up to work high af­ter cannabis is le­gal­ized next week, newly re­leased doc­u­ments show.

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