BANFF, Alta. – The main takeaway from a panel discussion on the legalization of marijuana could not have been clearer – companies must establish a drug and alcohol policy, and a good one.
The panel, which was held in Banff, Alta., during the Alberta Motor Transport Association’s (AMTA) 80th annual Leadership Conference and AGM, were in agreement that impairment in the workplace must become a point of emphasis.
“Impairment is impairment, and whether it’s legal or authorized or not makes no difference,” said Dr. Melissa Snider-Adler, chief medical review officer for DriverCheck.
Snider-Adler made the point that alcohol is legal, and employees cannot come to work impaired, and the same goes for cannabis.
Ryan Wass, executive vice-president of HighStreet Insurance Group, agreed, saying carriers must invest in the training and education of staff when it comes to impairment and marijuana use because when something goes wrong, the courts will look at a company’s efforts to prevent an incident from occurring.
“Investing in a policy that can identify what impairment looks like will be of critical importance to you,” said Wass.
Wendy Doyle, executive director of the office of traffic safety for Alberta’s Ministry of Transportation, said the basic goal for carriers is not allow drivers behind the wheel if they are impaired.
Doyle said the government has been working on a new policy to address impairment for about a year, with impairment from cannabis added to the policy.
Dr. Xiangning Fan, director of medical services for Alberta Labour, said companies should have a conversation with employees about impairment to educate on risks and company policy procedures.
“Workers have a role to play to make sure the workplace is safe,” she said, adding that workers do understand and care about how a coworker’s actions could impact them in the workplace.
Snider-Adler said there is no debate over the impairment effects marijuana has on individuals, whether regular users or not.
She added that recreational use of the drug is not protected under human rights, so having a policy in place to address this matter is vital.
There are, however, human rights issues to consider if a person is using cannabis for medical reasons, which also requires a strong company policy. Snider-Adler admitted that much of the onus of determining impairment is placed on the employer, which means companies may need to hire someone who is capable of dealing with the task.
Wass added that testing for marijuana impairment is difficult and right now can’t be defined legally speaking.
He said to carriers in the room that if they do not update their drug policies, they will be made an example of by the courts should an incident occur.