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Relaxed marijuana rules will cause needed rule changes in the workplace, MD of Willow Creek council hears

LAWRENCE GLEASON – GAZETTE CONTRIBUTOR
In the not-to-distant future employees under the influence of medical marijuana on the job, could be protected in their use of it as a medicine, which would render obsolete present work place zero-tolerance policies for intoxicants.
MD of Willow Creek councillors tried to wrestle with this new legal reality during their May 10 meeting, finally deciding to follow the advice of the chief administrative officer Cynthia Vizzutti, and have lawyers help draft a new policy to deal with the issue.
“I personally don’t have a dog in this fight,” said Vizzutti. “My issue is how do we deal with this in the workplace.”
Vizzutti and director of finance Johanne Hannas recently attended a Calgary seminar on medical marijuana and its impact on the workplace, put on by the legal firm, MLT Aikins.
Vizzutti said a policy dealing with the issue must be mindful of protections of medical information, workers rights, Occupational Health and Safety laws, the municipality’s own safety codes to protect the safety of their own employees and that of the public.
“How do you write such a policy that doesn’t step on the personal rights of individuals, while at the same time maintaining a safe work place?” Vizzutti asked councillors.
Vizzutti added the issue has gone from simple to complex in dealing with substances that can cause impairment on the job.
“We have had a strict policy of zero tolerance,” Vizzutti said.
Vizzutti said how insurers are going to deal with the issue of marijuana on the job is another gray area.
“What are insurance companies going to cover? How will we be liable?” Vizzutti asked.
Another issue is in order for marijuana to become a pharmaceutical it must be provided a product identification number.
But there are so many versions of marijuana that pegging a product identification number for it is difficult, Vizzutti said.
“There are types of marijuana that have very little THC, which causes the impairment and gives you the high.”
People are using medical marijuana for a wide variety of medical issues including epilepsy, blood pressure and anxiety.
Traces of marijuana stay in the blood system for 30 days, which makes testing for impairment difficult.
“Whoever invents a way to accurately determine impairment for marijuana will be a multi-billionaire,” Vizzutti said.
Councillors voted to have Vizzutti use a law firm to help draw up a policy on marijuana affecting the workplace.
The by-law would likely end up in the municipality’s safety manual.
Coun. Neil Wilson suggested the MD of Willow Creek cost-share with other municipalities due to the expense.

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