The CSA Group is currently working on a new standard to address cannabis impairment in the workplace, which is scheduled to be released spring 2020, attendees heard at the Partners in Prevention Health and Safety Conference and Trade Show in Mississauga, Ont. on April 30.
Just over six months have passed since cannabis has been legalized in Canada, and there remains limited regulatory guidance or legislative directives for employers and safety professionals to manage the effects of the substance in the workplace, especially in safety sensitive positions. The standard will aim to bridge this knowledge gap.
“Despite the fact that legalization has come and gone, there hasn’t been a lot of regulatory response to this,” said Dan Demers, senior manager of strategic business development at CannAmm in North Bay, Ont. “There are groups coming together to help guide what you can do to be prudent about these changes.”
Andrea Holbeche, project manager at the CSA Group, said the new standard is in the development phase and will be informed by a research report the group created called Workplace Policies on Substance Use: Implications for Canada, as well as data collected from a workshop the group held last October. Additionally, once the initial version of the standard is released likely in fall/winter 2019, stakeholders will be able to provide feedback.
The research report revealed that many workplaces lack a standalone cannabis or drug-impairment policy because drug impairment is often lumped in with broader, more general substance use policies.
Key components in workplace drug policies should include objectives and scope, prevention mechanisms, observation and investigation parameters, support, return to work, non-compliance, review and evaluation and legal requirements, said Holbeche.
Cannabis needs to be addressed in a policy separate from alcohol due to the way the substance affects the brain.
Unlike alcohol, once the initial feeling of intoxication dissipates, impairment can last up to 28 days, said Demers. Cannabis has 100 known phytocannabinoids (such as THC and CBD), but around 70 of those are psychoactive, causing the user to feel high. This impairment can include slower reaction times, which is problematic for workers in safety-sensitive positions because they can injure themselves and others.