Central Alberta businesses need to prepare for the legalization of marijuana.
That was the message at the Marijuana in the Workplace — What You Need to Know luncheon Wednesday, hosted by the Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce and Lacombe and District Chamber at the Red Deer Radisson Hotel.
Guest speaker Kristi Pinkney-Hines, founder and director of Hines Health Services in Fort McMurray and a registered nurse, said it’s important employers treat marijuana the same way they would treat alcohol.
“Similarly to alcohol, marijuana will be legal, but employees can’t be impaired at work,” Pinkney said to a crowd representing of Central Alberta businesses.
Pinkney-Hines said the goal of the luncheon was to provide an understanding of what things will look like after Bill C-45 comes into effect in July.
Things are “constantly changing and evolving … and everyone is trying to figure out what to do,” said Pinkney-Hines. “One of the most important things an employer can do moving forward is having a ‘fitness for duty’ policy.”
Pinkey-Hines said her fitness for duty policy went from being less than five pages to more than 30 after consulting lawyers and other professionals.
“It goes over things like reasons to test, voluntary disclosure of a substance abuse disorder, when you need to bring forward whether you are taking over-the-counter legal or illegal drugs. It’s a huge policy” she said.
The policy is intended to prevent incidents related to marijuana impairment. It also identifies liability in the case of an incident.
Robin Bobocel, Red Deer Chamber CEO, described the fitness for duty policy as a “beefed up alcohol and drug policy.”
Business owners need to how marijuana legalization may affect their business, Bobocel added.
“There are a lot of unanswered questions because of the changing nature of the issue, and the lack of clarity coming from the government. But I think it’s clearly something employers are concerned with and we will continue to educate our members,” he said.
Bobocel said there may be a similar luncheon in the future as legislation becomes clearer and regulations arise.
Monica Bartman, Lacombe Chamber executive director, said there were a lot of questions following the presentation.
“You can tell some people are a little tense and there is some nervous questioning about exactly what this means for employer and how they can go about it the right way,” she said.
Bartman said business owners will need to do their homework to figure out what policies should be put in place.
“It’s difficult to start building new policies when you don’t know what all the details are going to be so I think a lot of businesses will err on the side of caution,” she said.
Pinkey-Hines said numerous times during the luncheon, business owners should speak with their lawyers to determine how they can and cannot react to the legalization of marijuana.