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Employers at a luncheon hosted by the Fort McMurray Chamber of Commerce were warned it was time to update their policies on medications and impairment, as the federal government plans to legalize recreational marijuana use next summer. During the Thursday afternoon meeting, members of Wood Buffalo’s business community were given a presentation on what the future legislation will look like, what rights staff will have and the role employers can play in securing workplace safety. “With the legislation coming, and it will almost certainly pass, these issues will only grow and you will have to deal with it as an employers,” said lawyer Michael Jones of Stringam LLP. “Safety is key, as is protecting human rights of the people you work with and who works for you.” Much of the presentation from Jones and Kristi Hines, a registered nurse and the occupational health director of Hines Health Services in Fort McMurray, also focused on what the legislation says about medicinal and recreational usage, as well as safety policies. Hines also discussed health and social trends observed in Colorado after that state legalized recreational marijuana use in 2014 . Both Hines and Jones suggested employers should create a thorough drug and alcohol plan addressing impairment that reflects the upcoming policy. Jones advised employers take the time to also include other medications that could impair workers. Those in attendance were also reminded that now was the time to create and update policies on allowing staff the chance to seek treatment for addictions issues. “It’s fair to say as we come closer to legalization, it is possible addiction will become more of an issue,” said Jones. “I can’t stress that enough, that if you have someone who has an addiction… that is an illness. As an employer, it has to be dealt with as an illness.” Buying marijuana for recreational use is expected to be legal in Canada by July 2018, after the Liberal government introduced legislation last April.

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