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Employers concerned about legalization of marijuana: Survey

Almost half say their policies don’t adequately address potential issues that may arise
| hrreporter.com
Large Joint
People take turns smoking from a large joint at the annual 4/20 marijuana event at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on April 20. REUTERS/Jason Redmond

When it comes to the legalization of marijuana in Canada, employers feel unprepared for the impact increased drug use may have on the workplace.

More than 45 per cent do not believe their current workplace policies adequately address potential new issues that may arise with the legalization and expected increased use of marijuana, found the survey of 650 Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) members.

"Employers are concerned, and both governments and employers have a role to play to ensure workplaces are properly prepared for the legalization of marijuana on July 1, 2018," said Bill Greenhalgh, CEO of HRPA in Toronto. "Governments must ensure that issues such as the legal definition of impairment, and how to accurately test those levels, are resolved before the legalization date. On the other hand, employers must continually update and communicate their current drug policies to employees so expectations are clear.”

HR professionals have said that strict policies and government guidelines will be critically important to safety-sensitive workplaces, he said.

The top five areas of concern for employers when it comes to the impact of marijuana are employees operating motor vehicles, disciplinary procedures, decreased work performance, employees using heavy machinery and attendance, found HRPA.

Fifty-four per cent of respondents believe their existing policy for marijuana adequately covers off any potential new workplace issues that may arise with the legalization of recreational marijuana, while 46 per cent said no.

And 9.8 per cent of respondents said they perform some type of drug testing on employees. Of those respondents, 75.8 per cent believe the legalization of recreational marijuana will have either a great or moderate impact on their drug testing policy.

In its white paper Clearing the Haze: The Impacts of Marijuana on the Workplace, HRPA makes 10 recommendations to governments and employers to ensure they are prepared for the increased use of marijuana and the effects on the workplace. These recommendations include that the government maintain two regulatory streams for medical and recreational cannabis, and ensuring employers are prepared to answer questions about coverage of medical marijuana in their extended health care plans.

"While a year may sound like a lot to prepare for the legalization of marijuana, we are urging employers to act now. In terms of legalization on a broad scale, Canada is in uncharted territory," said Greenhalgh. "The sooner employers can communicate clear policies to employees, the better."

The full report can be found at  www.hrpa.ca/Documents/Public/HRPA-Clearing-The-Haze.pdf.

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