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Cannabis Impairment in the Workplace: A Jurisdictional Analysis of Drug Testing Policies and Recommendations in the Context of Canadian Legalization and Regulation

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Cannabis impairment can affect safety in the workplace. However, the proposed Cannabis Act does not include a framework for cannabis impairment in the workplace, as workplace health and safety in Canada is a provincial jurisdiction for most industries. In British Columbia, workplace health and safety is regulated by the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (OHSR) under the Workers Compensation Act (WCA). Part 4 – General Conditions of the OHSR contains regulations for impairment in the workplace in sections 4.19 and 4.208,9. These regulations emphasize the employee’s duty to report any impairment that could put their own safety or that of other workers at risk, and the employer/supervisor’s responsibility to not knowingly permit a person who is impaired and may endanger themselves or others to remain at the workplace.However, the presence of these regulations does not necessarily translate into the risk of cannabis impairment in the workplace being reduced in practice. The implementation of this policy approach relies on individuals having to report use of a drug which has historically been criminalized, and may continue to face stigmatization even after legalization occurs. Additionally, cannabis impairment is more complex than other impairing substances such as alcohol, and may not be well enough understood by workers or employers for them to identify when an individual’s cannabis use may affect their safety at work. While objective drug testing based on analysis of bodily fluids is a growing field of research in the context of driving and workplace impairment, the methods for detecting cannabis impairment are still being developed, and the use of the wrong methods have the consequence of punishing individuals for nonproblematic cannabis use rather than the act of performing an activity such as driving or working while impaired.
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