Pot policy workshop timely

By Geoff Lee

November 29, 2017 2:17 PM

Alison McMahon, CEO of Cannabis At Work helped more than 80 local businesses that attended a Marijuana and the Workplace Workshop on Nov. 22.  GEOFF LEE LSS Photo

About 80 Lloydminster business people learned how to develop or update their drug and alcohol policies, to prepare for the legalization of cannabis and the growing use of medicinal marijuana.
The Lloydminster Chamber of Commerce held a Marijuana and the Workplace workshop at the Lloydminster Golf and Curling Centre on Nov. 22, to provide an overview of cannabis regulations, workplace case law, and drug testing.
“The goal is, once marijuana is legalized in July 2018, is that our businesses are ready and prepared,” said Serena Sjodin, executive director of the chamber.
“They can start to write their drug and alcohol policy to make sure it’s up to date, so that when marijuana is legalized, they’re ready.”
The event featured speakers Alison McMahon, CEO of Cannabis At Work and labour lawyer, Robert Frost-Hinz with MLT Aikins and Jon Rokochy, owner of Assure Occupational Testing, acting as the master of ceremonies.
“People are here to learn about safety in the workplace as it relates to marijuana, and how do we treat marijuana in the workplace,” said Rokochy.
He also said workplace safety is the underlying reason why employers need to have a policy that outlines how to treat medical marijuana and recreational marijuana.
Assure has been testing for marijuana in the workplace for the past nine years of company history.
“It’s important for employers to have a drug and alcohol policy to ensure they know the process of what’s going to happen if and when someone presents with medical marijuana or there is a problem with recreational marijuana in the workplace—how do we proceed as a company,” he said.
“It sets out the plan for the company step by step, how do we take care of the situation.”
McMahon from Cannabis At Work said employers need to adjust their policies in the workplaces around drug and alcohol use to reflect these changes to cannabis usage.
As for what should go into a policy, McMahon recommends employers define the difference between prescription and non-prescription drugs and legal drug and illegal drug use.
“We strongly recommend that employees in a safety sensitive position are required to disclose any impairment causing prescriptions, including medical cannabis,” she said.
McMahon said the policy should have some strongly worded language that employees are not allowed to be impaired at work no matter what and that there’s consequences to having a positive drug test.
McMahon was on hand to help employers do a GAP analysis on their current policies to determine what they have right now and what they need to change.
Participants were provided with a sample drug and alcohol policy and business processes for managing medical and recreation cannabis disclosures.
McMahon said she hears a lot of concerns from employers trying to wrap their heads around how cannabis is changing.
She said they want to know what they should do if they have a medical disclosure at work by an employee.
“They want to know what are they going to do in the future when this is legal,” she said.
“Do I have to let my employees smoke pot at work – all of these questions.”
Dwayne Keichinger, a safety coordinator at Sandpiper said he came to the workshop to learn what the changes are going to be and “what we have to do as employers to accommodate our workers in the changes.”
He’d like to see open communication, disclosure, and an explanation for the reasons for the changes in their company policy—just to keep their employees and the general public safe.
“Safety is number one for Sandpiper,” he said.
Gerhard Bubbeal, manager of Peavy Mart, also came to the workshop with some concerns of his own.
“I just want to make sure we protect both the company and the employee in their rights and having a fair and just policy in place,” he said.
In addition, he said he was looking “to get clear definitions on boundaries and guidelines on where we stand employing people and how we can determine what poses a risk in a safety sensitive position.”
Lawyer Frost-Hinz MLT Aikins said having the proper policy in place before cannabis is legalized to avoid legal hurdles is not rocket science.
“It’s a matter of taking substances that we’ve been dealing with like alcohol and applying those to marijuana in the workplaces once it’s legalized,” he said before stepping up to the podium.
He said he was going to talk about what employers can expect when legalization happens and how to handle employees that are going to be able to utilize recreational marijuana rather than just purely on medicinal basis.
Sjodin said the chamber might have a followup workshop once cannabis is legalized.

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