Local officials concerned about road and workplace safety amid cannabis legalization

By Angela Brown
October 11, 2018 - 7:22pm Updated: October 12, 2018 - 10:40am

Battlefords officials want to remind people to exercise safety on the roads and in the workplace when cannabis becomes legal Oct. 17.

North Battleford's Community Safety Officers (CSOs) are urging residents not to mix drugs with driving, or face the consequences. Monitoring drivers for impairment will be one of the CSO team's new increased responsibilities.

"It's no different than what we have now under the Traffic Safety Act," Unit Commander Sgt. Ross MacAngus said. "If you are drinking alcohol in a vehicle we can charge you. If you're walking down the street drinking alcohol we can charge you with drinking in a place other than a dwelling. It will be the same with cannabis."

MacAngus said CSOs will be able to charge individuals for impaired driving from cannabis use just as they do for people driving while being over the legal limit for alcohol consumption. The city currently has six CSOs involved in bylaw enforcement as well as assisting the RCMP. 

Cannabis legalization will also have an impact on local businesses. Business owners will need to ensure their employees are not under the influence of cannabis when on the job, to create a safe workplace environment for all staff.

In a new poll from Ipsos, commissioned by ADP Canada, the changing legal status of cannabis highlights a disconnect between employers and employees, especially as it relates to when and how cannabis can be consumed at work. According to the survey, only six per cent of employed Canadians believe their company will allow the use of cannabis for recreational purposes during work hours or before coming to work. 

The survey used a sample of 1,000 working Canadians - 500 managers and 500 non-managers who are not self-employed - over the age of 18 via online panel and non-panel sources.

The survey also found 56 per cent of managers and 53 per cent of non-managers agree they expect to see an increase in health and safety incidents and absenteeism. Respondents in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, according to the survey, are the most likely to believe they will be allowed to use cannabis for recreational purposes during work hours or before coming into work. 

Nearly one in five respondents from Alberta and Quebec said they are at least somewhat likely to consume cannabis for recreational purposes before going to work, while 12 per cent of Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec respondents said they are at least somewhat likely to consume cannabis during work hours.

Battlefords Chamber of Commerce president Terry Caldwell said businesses will also need to be aware of the issue as a health matter. The chamber held a workshop for business owners in March on the topic of cannabis use and the law.

He said workplace rules in effect today prohibiting employees from being impaired from alcohol use while on the job will be extended for cannabis use.

"If you're impaired you can't work," Caldwell said.

According to the province's website, employees and employers "already have a shared duty to take reasonable care to protect the health and safety of themselves and others... There will continue to be zero tolerance for any worker who puts colleagues or the public at risk because of impairment." The province stated employers are responsible for protecting against workplace impairment. The provincial government has asked businesses to review their workplace policies and ensure there is an updated impairment policy in place.

In light of retail outlets expected to open in the Battlefords next week, Caldwell said the topic of cannabis use is generating plenty of discussion.

Looking at the issue objectively as the new cannabis retailers get ready to open shop to sell cannabis, Caldwell said essentially these businesses are just doing their job, adding approved cannabis retailers "are a new business like any other, and we need to defend their right to be there." 

 

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