A woman smokes a joint. Hundreds showed up at the B.C. Legislature to celebrate the legalization of marijuana in Canada. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)

‘Think about impairment in the workplace’ suggests WorkSafeBC

Suggestions for detecting and dealing with cannabis use at work

After the 95-year prohibition on recreational cannabis was lifted in Canada on Oct. 17, some workplaces have created policies on when employees can and can’t light up.

Post-legalization won’t be the first time cannabis use has been a problem in B.C.’s workforce, but Tom Brocklehurst, WorkSafeBC’s director of prevention practices and quality, said they are expecting an increase in on-the-job impairment.

“Cannabis has been part of the landscape in British Columbia for a while, and prior to legalization there’s been a fairly substantial increase in people who use cannabis regularly in the past decade or so,” Brocklehurst said.

The Central Saanich Police, one of the few police departments to create a cannabis policy for staff, said officers can use cannabis, as long as it’s more than 24 hours before a shift.

Canada’s Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines says the effects of cannabis can last at least six hours, and impair the ability to drive or operate heavy machinery.

READ MORE: Central Saanich will allow police officers to use pot

“The key for us is we’re not expecting employers to find a clinical level of impairment,” Brocklehurst said. “We’re expecting employers to evaluate whether their employees are capable of performing their tasks safely. That’ll depend on the nature of the task and the nature of the worker,” Brocklehurst said.

WorkSafeBC doesn’t require drug testing, but suggests keeping an eye out for symptoms — delayed reaction time, mood swings or personality changes and impaired judgement — and if suspicion arises to do a motor skills test similar to a sobriety test police perform.

“There are limitations with cannabis in terms of how you can actually verify someone’s impaired at the time you take the test because it doesn’t work like alcohol, it metabolizes differently,” he said, adding that workplaces have to be careful not to discriminate against anyone with addictions or who use medically-prescribed drugs that could impair them.

“This is a good time to have employers and workers focus on this better and have them think about impairment in the workplace.”

READ MORE: How schools across Greater Victoria are handling marijuana legalization


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