New Drug Testing Proposal Keeps Workers Hanging in the Balance

Now that it's legal in Canada, how will marijuana will be handled in workplaces?

Back in October, our friendly neighbors to the North became the largest country in the world to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

After some Canadians probably celebrated with a toke and some Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, others got to work, as certain regulatory questions took on new urgency.

One has to do with how marijuana will be handled in workplaces where its use could cause impairment and subsequent risk for workers. The simple answer is drug testing, and the Canadian Association of Mold Makers is pressuring the government to allow manufacturing companies to adopt a zero-tolerance policy on weed use on-the-job.

But it’s not quite as simple as requiring workers have no cannabis in their systems while at work. According to a recent Forbes article, the science hasn’t caught up to the legalization movement, and it isn’t quite capable yet of “telling the difference between workers who got stoned last night and the ones that are high on the job.”

That’s because the ability for marijuana to show up in a test vary widely from person to person. In bodily fluids like saliva or urine, cannabis can be detected anywhere from 1 to 30 days after use. In hair, it can be present for several months. Where you fall on that spectrum can depend on the regularity of your marijuana use, your body type, gender and even your age.

The Mold Makers association wants the government to allow manufacturers to test for marijuana when impairment is suspected and says that it simply comes down to safety in a workplace where there are a lot of potential dangers – like heavy equipment.

This leaves the 1.7 million manufacturing workers in Canada hanging the balance, considering approval of policy could mean many recreational users could find themselves out of a job following weekend or after-hours use.

The chairman of the association, Jonathon Azzopardi, insists his group is not trying to be a literal buzzkill. He says they don’t object to workers rights to personal use after-hours, however have concerns about liabilities: if an employee were to kill someone while operating a forklift, for example, the employer would have no way to defend themselves.

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