Marijuana in the workplace a hot topic at WorkSafe NB annual conference

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WATCH: Hundreds of employers and stakeholders turned out at a WorkSafe NB panel discussion on marijuana in the workplace. With the legalization date less than a year away, many say it’s still a “complex issue.” Global’s Adrienne South reports – Oct 5, 2017

Hundreds of employers and other stakeholders gathered in Saint John Thursday to attend WorkSafe New Brunswick’s annual health and safety conference.

WorkSafe NB chief medical advisor Dr. Paul Atkinson moderated a panel discussion with industry experts on marijuana in the workforce.

“Across Canada, we have a patchwork of different regulations within workers compensation boards because there really is no standard at this point,” Atkinson said.

READ MORE: New Brunswick creates Crown corporation to oversee marijuana sales

Lawson Creamer associate Matthew Letson took part on the panel.  Letson called legalization a ” grand live social experiment” and said policy promoting good communication is key.

“Having a clear policy, ensuring it says ‘we will not terminate if you disclose, we will help you with addiction, we will accommodate your medicinal use is going to be imperative to making sure there’s open dialogue with employees on both recreational and medicinal use going forward,” Letson said.

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Atkinson said it’s also important for employers and employees to understand the difference between medical cannabis and recreational marijuana, with New Brunswick becoming the first workers’ compensation system to develop a policy specifically related to the approval of medical marijuana.

“We at WorkSafe New Brunswick will be the first provincial jurisdiction to come out with a policy specifically relating to approval of medicinal cannabis for workers, for injured workers and absolutely we are moving towards a low THC, high CBD that is a form of cannabis that will not impair workers, will not intoxicate them, will not impact their ability to do their job but will have the beneficial medicinal effects,” Atkinson said.

Atkinson said recreational marijuana is high in the active ingredient THC, which he said is what causes people to become impaired.

READ MORE: New Brunswick marijuana company commits $20K to fight opioid crisis

City of Bathurst supervisor Paul Godin said it’s good news WorkSafe NB is moving things in the right direction, giving employers a better idea of where things are going. Godin said it’s comforting the new policy is already getting “ahead of the game.

“It gives a certain comfort, although as an employer not being able to test someone who might be under the influence, you just want to make sure that the person you’re working next to that you are safe at work and that you can count on that person standing next to you and I guess the biggest concern is to not have a tool to test someone if they are under the influence or not and I guess that’s the biggest concern,” Godin said.

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Atkinson said it’s a complex issue and a moving target that will require flexibility and the ability to adapt policy as more feedback emerges.

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