Dilemma on dagga law

The Citizen (KZN) - - News - Brian Sokutu

The 2018 Con­sti­tu­tional Court judg­ment le­gal­is­ing cannabis for pri­vate use has left the min­ing in­dus­try with a pol­icy shift co­nun­drum as far as test­ing em­ploy­ees for traces of the drug is con­cerned: whether to in­voke a blan­ket zero tol­er­ance ap­proach, or re­lax this in less safety sen­si­tive ar­eas.

The judg­ment handed down by Deputy Chief Jus­tice Ray­mond Zondo has made it law­ful to pos­sess and cul­ti­vate dagga pri­vately.

Em­ploy­ment law spe­cial­ists Li­zle Louw and Shane John­son have main­tained that em­ploy­ers should re­view pol­icy to adopt zero tol­er­ance in safety-sen­si­tive ar­eas, which in­cluded mines.

“The judg­ment has raised crit­i­cal ques­tions around med­i­cal test­ing in the work­place, es­pe­cially at mines, where em­ploy­ees have to op­er­ate com­plex ma­chin­ery – some­thing that may en­dan­ger their lives and those of oth­ers if their fac­ul­ties are im­paired,” said Louw and John­son.

“Cannabis can neg­a­tively im­pact on an em­ployee’s oc­cu­pa­tional ca­pac­ity in many ways. These in­clude per­form­ing tasks slower, poorly and find­ing dif­fi­culty in tak­ing in­struc­tions.

“Traces of cannabis can be found in the hu­man body for up to six months af­ter use, mak­ing it chal­leng­ing to de­ter­mine the ex­tent of im­pair­ment af­ter such a long time.

“If em­ploy­ees test pos­i­tive for cannabis, they are not nec­es­sar­ily still in­flu­enced by it and may not present a safety risk. If min­ing com­pa­nies sim­ply ap­ply the zero tol­er­ance pol­icy – as with al­co­hol – to cannabis test­ing, em­ploy­ees may ar­gue that they acted within the con­straints of the cannabis judg­ment.

“They may ar­gue that they are not un­der the in­flu­ence of cannabis and not a safety risk. They may say that they are treated un­fairly in not be­ing al­lowed to work.”

Con­sump­tion of cannabis for med­i­cal rea­sons might also pose a chal­lenge to em­ploy­ers.

While it could not be es­tab­lished how wide­spread the use of cannabis is in the min­ing in­dus­try, an­other chal­lenge for South Africa is the avail­abil­ity of a cannabis test­ing breathal­yser, said to be avail­able in other coun­tries.

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