Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Around the Arctic April 12, 2018 - 1:30 pm

No way to screen cannabis impairment, safety watchdogs say

“If you want to conduct drug testing in the workplace, get legal advice”

STEVE DUCHARME
Chris Moore, a training and education services consultant with the Canadian Centre of Occupational Health and Safety, gives a presentation at the Nunavut Mining Symposium on April 11. (STORY BY STEVE DUCHARME)
Chris Moore, a training and education services consultant with the Canadian Centre of Occupational Health and Safety, gives a presentation at the Nunavut Mining Symposium on April 11. (STORY BY STEVE DUCHARME)

Despite looming legislation legalizing recreational cannabis use across the country, there’s no “magic bullet” for screening impaired workers, safety experts told the Nunavut Mining Symposium.

Any solutions to the problem, at least in the immediate future, could pose sticky legal problems for employers worried about cannabis use by heavy equipment operators at mine sites.

“There is no clear correlation between presence of THC and impairment,” said Chris Moore, a training and education services consultant with the Canadian Centre of Occupational Health and Safety, on Wednesday, April 11.

Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the chemical responsible for creating the “stoned” effect of cannabis use, leading to impairment.

And while THC can be detected in urine or blood screening, the presence of the chemical does not necessarily mean that the person is currently impaired.

That’s because THC can linger inside a person’s body for a long time after cannabis use.

For frequent or heavy users of cannabis, THC can remain in their system for days, weeks, or even months after they use the drug.

To further complicate matters, some studies indicate that frequent users of cannabis can develop a tolerance to THC, and impairment could be relative according to the individual, Moore said.

“If you want to conduct drug testing in the workplace, get legal advice,” Moore said.

That’s because compulsory screening for cannabis use could be considered discriminatory under human rights legislation.

Preventative education and training is the best strategy, for now, for companies to accommodate legalized cannabis use, he said.

“You need to treat it as another hazard in the workplace,” Moore said.

That includes creating policies and programs to help employees identify impairment, training for staff and supervisors, and a confidential reporting system that proactively addresses the problem.

The chief inspector for mines at the Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission, Fred Bailey, said the legalization of cannabis would not give employees the right to use cannabis at work.

That’s because existing mine health and safety regulations already prohibit impairment by drugs or alcohol at work.

But Bailey said the WSCC is working closely with the Northwest Territories and Nunavut governments to update existing regulations to further define “impairment.”

Moore said more effective tests for cannabis use are likely to be developed in the future.

Bill C-45 is expected to pass some time this summer, although the proposed law is currently under intense scrutiny from Conservative senators who say they are likely to propose amendments.

In February, the Government of Nunavut released a discussion paper addressing future cannabis use and enforcement within the territory.

But right now, the GN has not tabled new territorial cannabis legislation at the legislative assembly, except for a bill that amends some existing territorial legislation to make it consistent with the upcoming federal law.

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(12) Comments:

#1. Posted by LaughingSeal on April 12, 2018

LOL just put a bunch of food and drinks in front of them, you will “weed” out the smokers in no time

#2. Posted by Northern Guy on April 12, 2018

It’s quite simple really. A zero tolerance policy should be a zero tolerance policy.

Anyone screened through blood or urine and found to have THC in their system should be removed from the work site whether they are legally impaired or not. It doesn’t matter whether Pot is legal, after all alcohol is legal but you wouldn’t want your workers drinking before a shift either.

Set the policies, enforce the policies, remove the offenders.

#3. Posted by Thanks, Nancy on April 12, 2018

@#2 Who are you, Nancy Reagan?

But seriously, if you read the article you would understand that the issue is that the substance is still detectable in the blood or urine long after the impairment has passed. Unlike booze which clears your system more or less at the same time as your hangover.

One solution could be to screen them at the beginning of their 2 week shift, then at the end. If someone’s THC has gone up over that period above some margin of error, they’ve been using at the site.

#4. Posted by Northern Guy on April 12, 2018

#3 agreed there would have to be some bench marking to establish (relatively accurately) a time frame for use. I may have come across a bit draconian; however the legalization of pot should not change company policy regarding its use while on site.

#5. Posted by up here on April 12, 2018

use the mouth swabs that sheriffs use in the states.  swab inside of mouth for recent thc exposure. no blood, no urine, no screening for long term residu. you can order them online.  they used to have them in a little store in Rankin for sale individually.  if anyone disputes results then they have blood/pee test to prove otherwise.

lol, who said testing pee or blood durring work?  swab, wait 2 min… clear means go back to work

#6. Posted by The Old Trapper on April 12, 2018

The lack of a “breathalyzer” type test is likely the biggest reason that it has taken governments until this year to legalize cannabis, obtain tax revenue from it, and reduce expenditures (policing, justice, and penal).

Obviously an accurate “intoxication” test would make millions (or more) for the researchers who make the breakthrough.

As such a test probably doesn’t exist yet, I would suggest mines, and other businesses using heavy equipment develop a standard skills test for their operators. This is likely already in place to qualify as an operator. Anytime an employee is suspected of being impaired they could be required to demonstrate their proficiency to a certain standard.

You would need to have certain guidelines as to when to test, what standard is needed, etc. to prevent abuse by management. If you are not proficient should you be operating heavy equipment? I think not.

#7. Posted by Soothsayer on April 12, 2018

The entire premise of this discussion is off base. The reason being we are approaching this issue through the same lens, and using the same concepts and language surrounding alcohol use; “impairment”

In reality, and up to a certain extent, cannabis does not impair performance, it enhances it.

#8. Posted by Jobi on April 13, 2018

Probably 75% of NU’s Inuit smoke cigs so likely 75% going smoke dope. Going be lots of stoned kids & adults every single day. Stink from cigs & dope going be everywhere. Sad.

#9. Posted by The Old Trapper on April 13, 2018

#7 Soothsayer, I haven’t seen any studies that show that cannabis enhances performance related to judgement, coordination, reaction times, etc. Actually quite the opposite.

If I’m around someone operating heavy equipment, a vehicle, or anything more complicated than a computer mouse I hope that the person is not high.

Having said that I am in favour of recreational cannabis. Get high, but do it safely.

#10. Posted by Nua on April 14, 2018

Well we can already do something here maybe everyone failed do understand. there is a already a law that sasys no impaired driving ,now tha is already inforced and we can make smokers be responsibility for ther eactions going behind the wheel.We can monitor and address to charge anyone having a Sniffer dog present and act accordingly .We need to think safety first before anyone goes behid the wheel.
It will be recreational use only remember.More we work togehte rto understand it the better.Our Child/ren are listening today maybe it’s tie we act .

#11. Posted by olaf on April 14, 2018

So many stoners erroneously believe they can concentrate better when high - this is NOT true.

Many studies have proven that someone behind the wheel who is high, does not have the normal reaction time to respond to the situation.

So listen up, it will be dangerous to drive, to operate heavy equipment and to make many decisions in a stoned state.

Poor pity the workplace if people do not understand this.

#12. Posted by iToke on April 15, 2018

Dear # 9 & #11

According to a 2016 study by Harvard University cannabis helps increase concentration and executive function in the brain, especially in tasks “mediated by the frontal cortex.”
Here is the link:

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphar.2016.00355/full

You said there are studies that demonstrate otherwise, can you provide a citation for that?

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