Legalization of Marijuana

Change is on the horizon for Canadians, does your business have policies and procedures in place? In this episode of Risky Business, Colin Rooke talk about navigating the legalization of marijuana

Listen to the full episode here, or read the full transcript below

Paul Martin: Welcome to Risky Business Commercial Insurance with Butler Byers. This is Paul Martin the business commentator on CKOM. And as always joining me in the studio is Colin Rooke the commercial risk reduction specialist at Butler Byers Commercial Insurance.

Today we’re going to talk about insurance, but in a different way. We’re going to talk about policy and current federal legislation, and some rules that are coming that you know, I think for the most part are fairly well understood, except for the implications part.

But we’re going to talk about the implications. And that is, the legalization of marijuana, and what does this mean to a business in terms of how you interface with your employees, and also you know, what are the rules that are going to be around this? What will be an employer’s rights? What will be an employee’s rights?

Pretty complex stuff. And Colin, you’ve begun to dig into this, and you’ve got some, well I guess a bit of a guide, that an employer could just logon and take a look at. Can you talk a little bit about you know, what you’ve identified so far?

Colin Rooke: Yeah so the idea around the legalization of marijuana is something that’s come up, it’s coming up daily. You know, more than once a day. And you know, we’re certainly including that topic in a new risk reduction workshop we perform. But we’re also finding that when we talk about the idea of new emerging risk, pro- active risk, our clients are saying, “What about the legalization of marijuana?” And really and you know, I like to say this is when we’ve really done our job when our clients are phoning us saying, “What do you have on this? We know you something,” and we’re able to share that.

So what we’ve done is we’ve developed a guide. You know, it’s really an employer’s guide to trying to navigate the legalization. And I think it’s something that you know, is, was, is really needed because the more we talk about the topic, it’s just more you know, prevalent how little is known on the subject. And just from large companies down to small, what are my rights? What do I need to do? How do I prepare for this? And where do I start?

Paul Martin: And I guess there’s also, we need to kind of split hairs a little bit and draw some lines that in October we’re going to see the legalization of recreational use of marijuana. And the word recreational is important there. But actually it’s been legal for quite some time with medicinal marijuana. So if you had a prescription, it was legal to take it. Now it’s going to be much more open ended.

So there was a set of rules, there’s going to be a new set of rules. And as an employer, you’ve kind of interfaced an employee who’s had a prescription. You know, so I’m trying to draw this line. Can you help me define for an employer just what are the differences between medicinal and recreational, and you know, what does that mean to me as a business?

Colin Rooke: Well you made a good point that you know, that you know, medicinal marihuana usage hasn’t been and isn’t illegal. And so a lot of the conversation around marihuana, it really seems to be coming from a place of like it’s a new, you know, it’s something new. You know, what happens if an employee’s using at work? And how do I change the policies? How do I address it? You know, am I allowed to say that they can’t, etc?

But a lot of that addresses again an issue that’s been around quite a while that you know, if you have a condition that and a prescription for medicinal marijuana, really the workplace should already have been prepped for that, or have policies and procedures in place to address medical marijuana. And a lot of those policies really wouldn’t change much when you talk about recreational use.

And it’s similar to you know, if you look at alcohol. Now as far as I know, there’s not a lot of employees that have prescriptions for alcohol at work. So if you look at okay recreational alcohol use, if you have an office policy that says you know, you can’t come to work under the influence. You’re not allowed to drink at your desk, drink on the job, drive our vehicles, drive your vehicles, we have a zero tolerance for that. It really is a matter of just saying, or amending saying you know, that’s going to apply to recreational use of marihuana.

So it’s one thing if you have a prescription, a medical condition that requires it. It’s different when you’re addressing the recreational side. And so you know, it’s important to wrap your head around okay how do I amend my policies and procedures similar to our stance on alcohol? And then include that for recreational marijuana, once it’s legalized.

Paul Martin: But there’s much more challenges with the medicinal one. Although I guess the product is different too, isn’t it?

Colin Rooke: Yeah it is. You know, for example if you’re looking at recreational marijuana, I mean the focus there is primarily going to be you know, THC content. You know, if you’re looking for a high at the end of the day, which is probably the goal for again recreational use, versus when you talk about the medicinal components of medical marihuana. You know, THC isn’t really what you’re after. It’s not the required ingredient.

So again, it’s really it’s more addressing you know, recreational usage of marihuana where the primary ingredient that the user is after is the THC for the high. As opposed to the again medicinal effects of medical marihuana, where THC has been in a lot of cases reduced or eliminated.

Paul Martin: And there obviously is a large community of support for the medicinal use of marijuana as a medical treatment. And because it’s gained so much momentum. I mean it’s obviously it’s become sort of mainstream. And likely is better than some of the more harsh pharmaceuticals I would think, in terms of you know, you’ll see on the label of a package, “Don’t drive any machinery, because could cause drowsiness or impairment,” or whatever.

So we’ve had pharmaceuticals in the marketplace that have created impairment, and medicinal marihuana not necessarily so. And that’s where the confusion starts to come. Because we all just assume marijuana’s  marijuana’s marijuana.

Colin Rooke: Yeah, yeah. That it’s sort of it’s you know, one drug one strain, does the same thing for everyone. And then there’s a lot of concern around that. But yeah we are definitely talking about you know, two entirely different types of marihuana. Again where you had the recreational use with high THC content is what the user’s after.

And you know, when is comes to just prepping for the workplace I mean really a lot of this comes … So if you look at the larger firms across Canada, there is a survey conducted that said out of HR professionals of some of Canada’s largest businesses, 45% felt despite knowing about you know, the legalization of marijuana, and actually having a, taking a pro-active approach to dealing with you know, polices procedures etc, 45% still feel that their policies and their procedures are not adequate. And they’re not ready for the legalization.

So if you think about that, these are firms that are large, and have identified they are working on the problem. It’s not new to them. And still 45% saying, “We’re not there. It’s not adequate.”

So it is something that you know, as a business owner you do need to be thinking about. You know, I think in some cases you may want to consult either HR professionals or legal as well.

But it’s just it’s really important to know what’s changing, how it’s changing, and just even on a really basic level, you know, what role do you play in that equation?

Paul Martin: That’s a really good point Colin. And I guess that’s the very reason we’re talking about it today, is this is relatively new territory. Business are still trying to navigate their way through what does all this mean. And maybe some might feel well I’ve kind of got through phase one with the medicinal stuff, now the recreational’s coming on.

When you’re talking to business owners and business people, is there a bit of, maybe fear’s not the right word, but trepidation as we head into the fall? That they kind of maybe aren’t as up to speed as they would like to be, or that the government is going to have us be?

Colin Rooke: Yeah, I would say that’s 100% accurate. You know, I think a lot of businesses have also started taking an approach that you know, maybe it won’t really

happen, or there’s been a lot of delays, extensions, changes, you know, and I think a lot have tried to wait it out. And it’s simply not the case now. And so again, it is something that does need attention.

And the other thing too is, you look at some of the stats at you know, usage prior to this proposed legalization. I realize these are just stats because it’s not legal yet, but I mean they’re talking about basically a 20% increase in uptake among recreational users. So 20% or the adult population that didn’t use recreational marihuana is planning to. So the legal aspect is really what’s holding, has been holding them back.

So I mean we’re talking you know, over 40% of the adult population is saying that you know, I’m going to try it. I’m definitely going to see what it’s about. And that brings a lot of, again back to the workplace, you know, how is that going to impact the workplace health and safety? Something needs to be you know, thought about. Or the use of our vehicles, the motor vehicles. And again, how do I need to change our disciplinary procedures to adequately reflect you know, changes in the Cannabis Act?

Paul Martin: All right. Well you just opened up a whole pile of questions that we’ll talk about in a moment.

We’ve got to take a little break. You’re listening to Colin Ruck the commercial risk reduction specialist with Butler Byers Commercial Insurance. This is Risky Business Commercial Insurance with Butler Byers. We’ll be back after this break.

Paul Martin: Welcome back to Risky Business, Commercial Insurance with Butler Byers. This is Paul Martin. Joining me, as always, is Colin Rooke, the Commercial Risk Reduction Specialist with Butler Byers Commercial Insurance.

Just before the break, Colin, you raised some questions about, there’s going to be a whole bunch of new users that are going to enter the game. They’ve been reticent to try marijuana on a recreational basis, simply because of the legalities of it, and now that those are going to be lifted, they’re willing to give it a try.

So, for that 20% of the adult population, they really don’t know what impact this is going to have on them. They don’t know if they’re going to have a high, or not a high, or will they have a hangover, for instance, the next day, or whatever. I mean, this is all new turf for them. So, if you’re an employer trying to read this, and you have your people coming to work Monday morning, and they’ve been on a weekend bender, it’s a whole new world.

Colin Rooke: Yeah. I mean, again, statistically, if you look at … You’ve got 10 people in a room. Two of them are using marijuana now, and two more of them intend to be once it’s legalized. I mean, again, you’re approaching half the crowd. Quite frankly, for the new users, assuming they’re … Let’s say they had not tried it to date, so it is truly a true user. Again, we don’t know the frequency of how often. Are they going to try it once? Are they going to try it every day, several times a day?

And so, there’s a lot to consider that there could be some changes in the workplace. For example, workplace performance, and then is that going to affect workplace attedance as well? To use your sort of weekend bender, there’s now something else that’s legal on the market that can impact the Monday morning performance of an employee.

Paul Martin: It can bring a whole new meaning to Monday morning meetings, I guess. But your point here is that this is new turf, and you’ve got a guide that you’ve prepared now. Where can employers access this guide that you guys have prepared at Butler Byers?

Colin Rooke: Yeah, I mean, obviously, you can contact us, and if you have any questions, go ahead and reach out, and we’ll walk you through it. It’s fairly comprehensive. Well, there’s a lot to it, but it’s written in a way that everyone can understand. But there really is a lot to cover when you talk about, again, legalization of cannabis.

There’s really quite … There’s two acts that are … bills, sorry, that have been changed or proposed, I guess. So, again, just an explanation of what is Bill C-45, and what is Bill C-46, and what does that mean to the criminal code? Then again, what am I required to do? It walks you through that.

All kidding aside, for employers that, let’s say, you’re not familiar, or the management team isn’t familiar with marijuana, the effects of marijuana, the signs of someone that’s using marijuana? I think, for example, alcohol, you can say, “Well, I can smell it on his breath, or her breath,” regardless of whether or not you are someone that consumes alcohol. But if you really don’t know what to look for, it tells you. Again, all jokes asides about red eyes and increased intake of salt, it tells you. If you’re not sure if someone may be under the influence, these are the actual side effects, this is what to look for. It does talk about some of the long-term effects.

It’s really important, again, as a business owner to just be as prepared as you can be. Again, how is this going to affect my auto policy, my disciplinary measures for the office? I mean, there’s really a lot to consider. Even, quite frankly, the idea of, let’s just say, beers in the boardroom. It’s Friday, everyone’s worked hard. It’s 3:00. You go to the staff and say, “We’re going to shut down a couple hours early, and we’re going to have chips and beer like we’ve done for the last 30 years.”

Well, what are you going to do if people say, “Well, I want to consume some edibles,” or, “Can we all go smoke it?” Again, it takes planning. Well, how are you going to handle that situation, for example?

Paul Martin: I guess the worst thing an employer can do is nothing.

Colin Rooke: Yeah, for sure.

Paul Martin: The best thing to do would be to at least inform yourself, and if push came to shove, you could argue in front of somebody important that, “Look, at least we did the research. We were working on our manual.”

Colin Rooke: And a really good point, because occupational health and safety laws require you to provide a safe workplace. I mean, it’s called doing your due diligence, and so if you do nothing … It’s one thing to focus on, okay, who in the workforce, or workplace, could be using marijuana, but what could be the potential impact on the other employees that don’t, or are surrounded by that person? Again, it’s looking at all things, saying, “Okay, I have to address that too. I have a duty to provide a safe workplace, and if I ignore this, maybe I’m not fulfilling my duties.”

Then lastly, too, there’s also human rights you have to take in consideration. If it’s legal, am I able to penalize … Let’s say you’re fundamentally against the use of marijuana. It’s a drug. It shouldn’t be legalized. You’re against it. Are you allowed to have an office policy that precludes your employees from using a recreational drug that is now legal, simliar to alcohol?

And there’s a lot of rules around testing, and when can you test, and even if you are allowed to test. It’s in the guide. It’ll walk you through it. I’ve only touched on 5% of this thing. I think all the rest of the shows for the year could be on this topic, but it’s in the guide. Contact us, and we’ll help you with it.

Paul Martin: Colin, as always, thank you, and the time goes by so quickly, but this one is … We talked less insurance today, and more about just the kind of service you guys provide, so it’s a little bit-

Colin Rooke: But it’s all part of our proactive risk management plan, so the why work with Butler Byers? Well, we’re going to help you with the legalization of … or, sorry, recreational marijuana, for example.

Paul Martin: You’ve been listening to Colin Rooke, the Commercial Risk Reduction Specialist with Butler Byers Commercial Insurance. I’m Paul Martin. This is Risky Business, Commercial Insurance with Butler Byers. Thanks for joining us. Talk to you next time.