CANNABIS LEGALIZATION - Kristi Pinkney-Hines, occupational health nurse, spoke to members of the Red Deer and Lacombe Chambers regarding the impending legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada. Todd Colin Vaughan/Red Deer Express

WATCH: Lacombe and Red Deer Chambers prepare members for cannabis legalization

Luncheon speaker educates businesses on marijuana policies

The Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce and the Lacombe and District Chamber of Commerce held a joint luncheon at the Radisson in Red Deer to discuss cannabis use in the workplace.

Occupational Health Nurse Kristi Pinkney-Hines of Hines Health Services in Fort McMurray spoke to about 70 Chamber members regarding how the incoming federal bill C-45 will affect their businesses when it comes into effect in July 2018.

The main takeaway for businesses is the need to create a, “Fit for duty policy,” which is a more expansive drug and alcohol policy for businesses.

“There are quite a few business that haven’t had a policy in play and now going forward, that is their number one priority,” Pinkney-Hines said.

Pinkney-Hines said after speaking with her lawyers and other professionals, her policy grew from under five pages to over 35 pages.

“It goes over thing 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 is a huge policy and even includes social policies,” she said.

The policy is intended to proactively protect incidents related to marijuana impairment as well as clearly identify liability if incidents arrive. The policy not only helps employers, it can also help employees as well.

“They need to be aware that just because marijuana is legal, that doesn’t mean you can go into work impaired. In July, you need to be educated and know that if your company does have a policy, and you smoked and there was in an incident — you could lose your job,” she said.

Following her presentation, Pinkney-Hines opened the floor to questions, which revealed a lot of nervousness for employers.

“Everyone is curious. It is constantly changing and evolving. There are announcements from the federal, provincial and municipal level of government and everyone is trying to figure out what to do,” she said.

Robin Bobocel, CEO of the Red Deer Chamber, said that much of the confusion regarding the issue of cannabis legislation has been due to a lack of clarity from the federal government.

“No employers want to be out of sync with labour legislation or human rights policies. Employers are seeking answers and it is somewhat frustrating they don’t seem to be coming forthright from the federal government. We expect that will come in time,” he said.

Despite the confusion, Bobocel said there is opportunity for cannabis-related business in Central Alberta.

“We certainly want to spend some time educating our members on the pros, cons and opportunities that exist around that. I would like us to explore the business side of this from the economic development perspective,” he said.

He added it is likely the Chamber will continue to host information sessions like this one and that the creation of fit for duty policies really resonated with him for Chamber members.

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