Canadian HR Reporter

September 2019 CAN

Canadian HR Reporter is the national journal of human resource management. It features the latest workplace news, HR best practices, employment law commentary and tools and tips for employers to get the most out of their workforce.

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CANADIAN HR REPORTER SEPTEMBER 2019 2 NEWS Edible cannabis could mean fresh challenges for employers Newly available products stronger, last longer than inhaled ones BY SARAH DOBSON JUST WHEN employers were starting to feel comfortable — or less panicked — about the im- pact of recreational cannabis on the workplace, the legal produc- tion and sale of edible cannabis, cannabis extracts and cannabis topicals will take effect Oct. 17. Unlike inhaled cannabis, in- gestibles can take longer to take effect (from 30 minutes to two hours, compared to seconds) and the full effects of the ingest- ed products can also take longer to peak (four hours, compared to 30 minutes for inhaled prod- ucts), according to the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and Addiction (CCSA). "The cannabis products that we currently have available are mostly those that are smoked or vaped," says Robert Gabrys, re- search and policy analyst at the CCSA in Ottawa. "And the onset of psychoactive effects follow- ing these sort of substances is relatively quick, so they appear within a few seconds to minutes, whereas [with] edible cannabis products, the onset of effects is considerably longer. "They might appear anywhere between 30 minutes to two hours. And for some individuals, that could take up to four hours for the high, essentially, to appear." Ingestion of cannabis also leads to a longer duration of ef- fects, he says. "With inhalation effects, [they] typically last up to six hours, whereas eating an edible cannabis product, the effects could last up to 12 hours, and some of these re- sidual effects such as drowsiness could last even into the next day." Also of note: Data out of the United States — for regions where cannabis has been legal — has shown that people unfamiliar with edibles are more prone to take another serving if they're not feeling the effects, says Gabrys. As we head toward Oct. 17, concern from employers could creep up again because of the new products, says Ryan Mal- lough, senior policy analyst for Ontario at the Canadian Fed- eration of Independent Business (CFIB) in Toronto. "It's one thing to be able to iden- tify a cannabis smoker [and] quite another thing to be able to iden- tify an edible [user], and they react with the body differently," he says. "Ultimately, when it comes to cannabis — especially as new products and whatnot get rolled out… employers and employ- ees need to have conversations around expectations and what's acceptable and what's not. And when it comes to… recognizing impairment, the onus is on the employer or the floor manager of the day, but all employees should be looking out to their fellow employees if you are concerned someone is impaired. There needs to be a system in place in the workplace where you can re- port that to ensure that everyone is safe." Impairment concerns Having had a year to adjust to the drug's legalization, most employ- ers have policies and supports in place to deal with any potential issues. But uncertainty remains around issues such as impair- ment, says Mallough. "There still is a pretty sig- nificant education gap when it comes to business owners know- ing what it is they are responsible for, what it is they need to do, particularly around things like recognizing impairment." The CFIB might talk to em- ployers about symptoms such as red eyes, sluggishness or lack of attention, he says, but "I've had some red-eye flights coming back from vacation, and those are also the symptoms of jet lag." "It really does come down to being vigilant in the workplace," says Mallough. "If you have a feel- ing someone might be impaired, especially in a safety-sensitive position, you're much better off addressing it than rolling the dice and saying, 'Maybe I'm just seeing something or overreact- ing.' So, we are still recommend- ing erring on the side of caution." A lot of employers are still strug- gling with how to define workplace impairment and how to enforce it, says Drew Demerse, a partner at Roper Greyell in Vancouver, add- ing the biggest concern is for safe- ty-sensitive employers. "The first [issue] is that the medical experts I speak to note that a cannabis user is less likely to be able to tell they're impaired than someone who has consumed alcohol. So, cannabis is more dif- ficult from a self-assessment per- spective to detect when a person is or ceases to be impaired." The effects of cannabis re- ally depend on the person, says Gabrys. "Things like the person's sex, their age, how frequently they use cannabis — all of these fac- tors will impact how and when these effects occur, and how long they'll last for. So, there's quite a lot of variability not only on the inhalation [on] the smoking and vaping side but also on the inges- tion [side]... but the general or key message would be that inges- tion leads to a longer or delayed onset and a longer high." Testing challenges There are also a lot of questions around workplace drug testing, says Mallough, as it's not only about when people can be tested but also what the tests say and how accurate they are. "It's still not telling you that someone was impaired; it's tell- ing you that cannabis was in their system. It's still not as clean as an alcohol test where… you can tell impairment at that point," he says. "Cannabis, depending on the type of strain that you consume, how much of that you consume, the method of consumption… can hit people very differently." The research on cannabis is still evolving and the science is not so- phisticated when it comes to test- ing methods, says Monica Haberle, senior research associate at the Conference Board of Canada. "Understandably, this is a sig- nificant challenge for employers who are looking to make that de- termination on their own." Organizations are learning more about different methods, such as using lab-based, oral- swab testing to close the window to gauge recency versus urinalysis tests, which can pick up cannabis from a few days before, she says. "Things are really improving in this space. But, certainly, signifi- cant challenges remain." And while a policy can prohibit impairment in the workplace, it can also serve to keep people from being at work with a partic- ular concentration level of drugs in their system, says Demerse. "That's establishing cut-offs and a policy for drugs. And that's not to say that someone is neces- sarily impaired if they have a con- centration of THC, for example, so they have higher than a par- ticular limit, but what it means is if the limit is set correctly, there's a risk of impairment." In some cases, employers have taken the position that an em- ployee made a bad decision to come to work, because the con- centration of THC (tetrahydro- cannabinol) in their saliva was higher than the cut-off level in the policy, but did not necessar- ily equate that to proof of impair- ment, he says. "What it meant was there was a safety risk in the workplace, and the safety risk wasn't something that the employer was prepared [for] or should tolerate." What about HR? Survey shows too many people don't know what the profession is all about Enforceability of releases What happens when an employee who signed a release subsequently tries to pursue a claim? Good character testimonies aren't a defence for sexual harassment Predators may take advantage of situations where they think no witnesses are present How can I refuse? Work refusals can help with worker safety, but shouldn't be used lightly Workplace fit critical to senior employees' health: study HR must avoid stereotypes, emphasize values of mature workers Pay raises expected to reach 2.6 per cent in 2020: report Tech sector outpaces national average by half a percentage point Many racialized workers experiencing high levels of 'emotional tax' Employees in this group have high intent to quit: survey Personalized immigration process aims to aid Quebec employers But reputation of provincial program is 'shot worldwide': expert Welding labour shortage draws government attention Assessment portal aims to help foreign welders gain credentials BLOGS BRIEFS NEWS VIDEO BLOGS BRIEFS NEWS VIDEO Recent videos, stories and blogs posted on www.hrreporter.com. Check the website daily for updates from Canada and around the world. Customers line up at a cannabis dispensary in Toronto in April. Credit: Sarah Dobson Social media considerations Overall, 16 per cent of employers have guidelines in place that address social media usage depicting recreational cannabis, found a Conference Board of Canada survey of 163 Candian employers. The guidelines were most common at employers in the power and utilities, transportation and warehousing sectors. A lot of organizations are concerned about the optics of employees using cannabis, says Monica Haberle, senior research associate at the Conference Board of Canada. "Although it's now legal, the stigma is not yet fully gone," she says. "If you're thinking of posting a picture of your organizational holiday party, where there might be some glasses of sparkling wine, organizations are not yet comfortable having people holding joints in these pictures." While cannabis culture has been around for years, there's still a taboo associated with it, says Ryan Mallough, senior policy analyst for Ontario at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business in Toronto. "That 'reefer madness' mentality still exists in a lot of places, as far as the effects of cannabis go and how significant they can be," he says. "Ten years ago, you would never dream of cannabis at a workplace event. That's an illegal drug. Now, it is a possibility someone can step out of an office Christmas party to take a smoke break, and they could be consuming cannabis. And… the employer still has responsibilities there."

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