Seven months after the legalization of recreational cannabis, Garnet Amundson’s worries have not abated.
Amundson is chief executive of Calgary-based Essential Energy Services, with nearly 400 workers, including 350 in safety-sensitive roles in the oilpatch.
Topping his list of concerns is having employees who can pass any type of drug test on any given day and arrive at work without any impairment.
Not only does his company drug test employees in certain instances, but the staff may also be tested when they perform work at a facility owned by a different firm. In that case, Amundson said his workers have to meet the standards of the other company.
“Employees have to be completely clean at all times, so they can access these top customers and get on to their job sites,” he said.
It’s a situation underscoring the human resource and legal issues created by the legalization of cannabis for industries where any sign of impairment is closely monitored and safety is a priority.
The oilpatch, for example, has worked hard to get a handle on substance abuse for several years and the legalization of recreational cannabis presents another challenge for companies dealing with the often thorny issue of drug testing.
Testing for cannabis is not as advanced as using a breathalyzer to gauge someone’s impairment from alcohol. A urine test for cannabis, for instance, can detect THC, but can’t necessarily judge a person’s level of impairment.
“I think people maybe have been a bit misinformed believing that there is a completely accurate and reliable way to test for impairment with cannabis,” said Amundson.
No wonder the legalization of cannabis is proving to be logistically challenging for Amundson and other employers across the country.
Legal grey areas and a lack of definitive tests mean “complete abstinence from some of these substances is required,” Amundson said.