Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised his government will legalize, regulate and restrict access to marijuana. The Liberals announced plans to introduce legalized marijuana on April 20, 4/20, or national cannabis day, and expect to introduce legislation this coming spring.
The prospect of legal marijuana raises many safety concerns for Canada’s oil and gas industry, where drug and alcohol use has long been a safety issue. In August, Enform took industry’s concerns to the Task Force on Marijuana Legalization, Regulation and Restriction on behalf of its member associations. In this Q & A, Enform CEO and president Cameron MacGillivray highlights the contents of the six-page submission.
In this audio clip, Cameron talks about marijuana and testing:
Here, Cameron describes the temporal effects of marijuana:
Below are additional excerpts from Cameron’s interview.
How will the legalization of marijuana affect energy companies’ existing drug and alcohol policies?
Existing work rules already prohibit the use of drugs, substances or alcohol that impair performance on the job. Certainly, the vast number of studies on the use of marijuana has identified impairments that are cognitive – such as decision-making and also psychomotor responses, such as how to manipulate tools quickly or awareness of the working environment.
Why have Enform and its member association expressed concern about the legalization of marijuana to the government of Canada?
We are looking to have some feedback from the government on what they might do in terms or prohibition or restriction in the workplace. After all, the task force is called Marijuana Legalization, Regulation and Restriction. Restriction in the workplace is important for us. The ability to test is important for the industry and especially in safety-sensitive environments.
What actions do Enform and its member associations want the government take?
We’d like to see some tools, be they legislation, regulation or codes, federal or provincial. And we’d like to see some of those tools be applied to clarify that marijuana in the workplace should be prohibited, whether it’s the sale, use or possession in the workplace.
We are looking for some of that feedback and to provide our input on the practical implications for workers that might result from the legalization of marijuana.
What concern do you have about marijuana detection and testing in the oil and gas industry?
With marijuana, the level of impairment versus what’s in the system is not as direct a link as it is with alcohol. However, we know marijuana affects cognitive and psychomotor functions. So, the presence of it in the system of a worker is unacceptable in the workplace, especially in safety-sensitive areas.
What parallels can be made between marijuana and alcohol?
Most people will draw parallels with alcohol. Alcohol has been well studied and the level of impairment versus the amount consumed is better understood. The principles are the same. While you can use alcohol in your private life and it’s certainly legal to do so – you certainly don’t use alcohol in the workplace, whether you are driving, or working around high-pressure vessels or equipment.
The analogy is the same: anything that impairs the ability for you to do your job in a safety–sensitive environment is a concern.
How will the use of marijuana off the job affect on-the-job needs?
One of the things that’s concerning and coming out of the research studies is that there’s a temporal link to marijuana use that may extend to several hours or days after its use. Somebody using marijuana in close proximity in time to when they will be working in a safety sensitive environment would be concerning. Close proximity to when you’re going to be doing work causes you to be impaired. Personal use, therefore can affect performance in the workplace and that is a concern to us.
What concerns do workers have about marijuana use in their workplaces?
Workers are very concerned about their own safety and the safety of their peers in workplace. We have had those concerns expressed to us over the many years since we have had an oil and gas industry. Nobody wants to put themselves or their fellow workers in danger. After all, both workers and employers have a personal and legal responsibility to take every reasonable precaution to ensure their own safety and that of other workers.
For resources on developing alcohol and drug policies, see Alcohol and Drug Policy Model for the Canadian Upstream Petroleum Industry.