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The consequences of legalizing marijuana in the workplace

On April 13, 2017, the Trudeau government introduced a bill to legalize marijuana in Canada. Be careful, cannabis (the name given to the plant) remains illegal throughout the legislative process, until July 1, 2018, at the latest. For now, let’s take a look at the content of the bill and the consequences of consuming marijuana for individuals and employers.

 

A multi-faceted bill
The bill aims to strictly regulate the production, distribution, sale and possession of cannabis in Canada. The objectives therefore affect different audiences: young people, by combating the promotion of cannabis and limiting access; criminal groups, by heavily punishing those who import, export and supply cannabis to young people (up to 14 years in prison); adults, by allowing them to legally produce, for personal use, up to four plants (per residence) and by authorizing them to possess 30 gr of cannabis purchased from retailers subject to provincial regulation; the public, by informing them of the risks associated with marijuana. Although, according to the Angus Reid institute, 63% of people interviewed approve of the bill on legalizing cannabis for recreational purposes, many questions remain.

 

Impact on health and safety
Consuming marijuana is harmful, even devastating, for the health of individuals. This substance acts on the body by strongly altering blood pressure (fainting, heart attack) as well as in the brain, causing delirium, hallucinations, anxiety, extreme fatigue, etc. As such, it is good to be reminded that taking cannabis in the teens or early twenties is very damaging, since the brain continues to develop until age 25. In addition, the notion of dependency is very pronounced among young people: 16% of those who have taken cannabis in adolescence will develop a dependency, compared to 11% in other cases. Finally, current consumption of cannabis – illegal, except for therapeutic use – also accentuates the risks to public safety. As proof, purchases are frequently from illegal players, thereby supporting illegal income and maintaining organized crime.

 

Concerns of employers
The bill on legalization of marijuana is highly concerning to employers who wonder what state their employees will be in when they arrive at work in the morning and whether they will be able to work and to concentrate. Employers in the field of transport have even banded together to make their voices heard and to ask the Canadian government to reconsider its position, proposing measures of raising awareness and prevention. Some even claim to be able to conduct random testing to detect the presence of employees under the influence of drugs. These tests, which infringe on privacy, are only foreseen in certain cases (transport sector, companies with a significant safety issue or if the union agrees to the testing policy, etc.). Companies could also feel the effect of legalization in financial terms (increase in insurance and health costs) as well as in human terms (more hospitalization, absenteeism and higher turnover rates).

 

Legalizing such a socially divisive subject explains why the laws globally are so diverse and vary between those under which consumption is legal and regulated (the Netherlands), decriminalized (Argentina), illegal but tolerated (Brazil) or still illegal and punished (France).

 

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