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Substance management policies needed before pot is legalized

League, a health tech company, in collaboration with MedReleaf, one of Canada’s largest medical cannabis producers, has come up with an online toolkit for employers to assist them in forming company substance management policies.

“Basically it includes a policy template,” says Lori Casselman, a health advisor at League. “The template really provides the foundation and resources employers can use to build out their policy.”

While the resources are free for any company to use and incorporate into their substance management policy, League’s employer clients can also work with a representative who will walk them through the toolkit, says Casselman.

Beer and marijuana

Beer and marijuana

Recreational users of marijuana
The toolkit is simple and easy to use. Actually, it is almost self-explanatory and one thing is stressed: under the legalization of marijuana for recreational use, there aren’t any separate requirements when it comes to creating a policy. This is an important point, particularly because there are already federal regulations in place for medical marijuana users.

The number of registered users of medical marijuana in Canada jumped 40 percent over the last six months, according to statistics from Health Canada cited by Bloomberg. There are over 235, 600 registered cannabis users, or about 0.6 percent of the country’s 37 million people.

One excellent template in the online toolkit is the substance classification chart that can be incorporated into a company’s HR handbook for employees. Any employee should be able to quickly scan the chart to determine if a substance they are using represents an issue they need to address with their employer or HR team.

The level 4 laboratory in Winnipeg allows for investigation into various infectious diseases  includ...

The level 4 laboratory in Winnipeg allows for investigation into various infectious diseases, including Lassa fever virus, Ebola virus and Marburg virus. This is one job where an employee must be totally alert.
Public Health Agency of Canada

Workplace safety is a big concern
One thing should jump out at anyone looking over the substance classification chart, and that is the phrase, “cause impairment.” It is broken down into four categories, including:
1. Legal, non-medical substances that cause impairment, like alcohol and marijuana
2. Illegal, non-medical substances that cause impairment, like cocaine or heroin
3. Medically-authorized substances that cause impairment, like medical marijuana and codeine
4. Prescription substances that cause impairment used illegally., and this category can include a number of substances

Many employers who long-ago adopted drug and alcohol testing for high-risk jobs are very concerned about the legalization of marijuana. There are fears that the additional testing for marijuana use will be costly.

Then there is the added concern over marijuana’s active ingredient — it can remain in the bloodstream for days or even weeks. And there is no test that can tell you if that joint was smoked over the weekend or on your way to work. This is a big concern to employers when they have an employee doing a high-risk job.

For example, the trucking industry began drug and alcohol screening in the 1990s after the U.S., Canada’s biggest trading partner, requested this be done. Drug and alcohol screening spread to the oil patch as more American companies started building energy projects in places like Alberta.

Many energy companies run urine or saliva tests for drugs and alcohol when screening job applicants and sometimes test employees before they can enter certain critical sites. Employees are also tested if impairment due to drugs is suspected or there has been an accident.

Hound Labs is developing a breathalyzer for marijuana and alcohol that could hit the market later th...

Hound Labs is developing a breathalyzer for marijuana and alcohol that could hit the market later this year.
Hound Labs

Be very clear on zero-tolerance policies
Companies don’t need to be dealing with an increase in worksite accidents, including slips, falls and slow reactions to emergency situations, but that is what has already been happening in Colorado and other states where recreational marijuana use was made legal.

In January, Digital Journal reported that workforce drug abuse is on the rise, and this includes taking into account states where marijuana use has been legalized. A Quest Diagnostics report issued in 2017 analyzed over 10 million workforce urine test results. The company noted an increase across the board for cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamines.

For marijuana specifically, “positive oral drug tests increased nearly 75 percent to 8.9 percent in 2016, up from 5.1 percent in 2013. Appearance in both urine and hair tests increased as well. These results are largely the result of the legalization of recreational drug use.”

League is very clear on having a “zero-tolerance” policy in the workplace, as well as the need for a written policy on the consequences and disciplinary action required if a company’s substance management policies are broken.

The Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index (DTI), has been published annually since 1988 and includes information on three categories of workers: federally-mandated, safety-sensitive workers, the general workforce and the combined U.S. workforce.

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We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of our dear friend Karen Graham, who served as Editor-at-Large at Digital Journal. She was 78 years old. Karen's view of what is happening in our world was colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in humankind's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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