Ed Secondiak, who spent more than two decades with the RCMP before founding the drug and alcohol testing company ECS Safety Ltd., worries the federal government’s push to legalize marijuana could create problems for workers and employers. He spoke with the StarPhoenix in advance of his scheduled speech Tuesday to the Saskatchewan Workers Compensation Board’s (WCB) Compensation Institute.
Q: What was your reaction when you heard the federal government was planning to legalize marijuana?
A: My concern (was) that they recognize that it is a drug that causes impairment, and that there would have to be something in place that would help employers maintain safety in the workplace. (But) a drug test can’t measure impairment. It can tell if a person’s above a standard, but it can’t tell if they’re impaired.
Q: What implications does that have for efforts to reduce workplace incidents and accidents?
A: If a person’s using medical marijuana there’s obviously a need for it, which is fine, but they can’t work in a safety-sensitive position. If a person’s a recreational user, again, the ability to work in a safety-sensitive position is very limited. So a lot of employers have gone to drug and alcohol testing and education so that people can make informed choices.
Q: How should companies deal with a drug that is legal, and unlike alcohol very difficult to test for, at least in terms of impairment?
A: We have a very low tolerance for (alcohol) and what is a law and what is a safety practice can be totally different. With marijuana, even if they set an “impaired level” it may be that we won’t follow that level, we’ll follow the cutoff level. Basically, it means that if you’re above that standard, you could be at risk in the workplace.