Britain can learn from Canadian cannabis experience
Leading drug reform advocates Volteface believe the UK can greatly benefit from Canada’s experience, one year on since the North American country legalised cannabis. Speaking to The Extract, Liz McCulloch, Director of Policy at Volteface said, “MPs have predicted that the UK will legalise cannabis within the next 10 years and over 50% of the general public are in favour of legalisation. Reform should be treated as an inevitability and it is essential that when the UK does legalise, the country learns from the Canadian experience.” McCulloch’s comments came after the release of a report from Canada, which highlighted how important it is for businesses to give their employees high-quality workplace policy information around cannabis impairment.
Canada’s experience is being eagerly watched by other jurisdictions, as more and more countries consider developing their own cannabis industries or at least changing their approach to cannabis-derived products. Blair Gibbs, a former Advisor on Criminal Justice and Developments in Canada to Volteface has since ascended to the role of adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, indicating the extent of interest in British circles. Volteface also organised a recent UK political cross-party trip to Canada on a fact-finding mission, covered by the BBC.
Fit for duty
The report by the Conference Board of Canada highlighted the effects legalisation has had on both Canadian employers and employees. The main highlights from the report show that since legalisation, 76% of employers have adjusted their alcohol and drug policies with 70% having introduced a ‘fit for duty’ policy where employees are expected to come to work unimpaired. It largely shows a positive engagement by business with the new social realities of a legalised cannabis dimension. “The release of this report highlights how important it is for businesses to give their employees high quality information on cannabis impairment and have clear workplace policies that define impairment,” added McCulloch.
“Reform in the UK should be accompanied by Governmental guidance which advises businesses on how they can best do this.”
Health & safety
Concerns still exist for Canadian employers, in particular with regards to health and safety with the majority of employers concerned about the increased risk of accidents, impairment, and their employee's mental health.
All Eyes on Canada
The Canadian report comes at a time when more and more countries are looking to implement new legislation around both medicinal and recreational cannabis and all eyes are on Canada and the effects legalisation is having. Canada had sufficient time to implement new organisational practises as discussions had been ongoing since the federal election of 2015 with the report highlighting that 68% of businesses felt they were prepared.
This finding is in stark contrast to a report by the Human Resources Professional Association who showed that 45% of respondent companies felt that their company policies were NOT in fact ready for the legalisation of cannabis 6 months prior to its implementation. The Conference Board of Canada report showed that 76% of organisations updated their organisational policies with regard to the use of legal substances during work hours and 43% of companies updating their policies of legal drug use outside of work hours.
The report also showed that there is no established limit on blood concentrations of THC that reliably results in impairment. The reason for this is because blood THC concentrations have been shown in some studies to effectively reach zero after 2.5 hours and as such, it is difficult to implement a drug per se limit for employees.
60% of organisations do not have a definition of impairment and 78% do not have a definition of impairment that directly relates to cannabis. This suggests a zero-tolerance policy is impractical. Interestingly though 48% of private-sector employers prohibit cannabis use at all times in and outside of work hours. The majority of organisations reported that they are in the process of developing (or already have in place) consequences for not abiding by policies.
Concerns about the impact of cannabis legalisation dropped from 52% pre legalisation to 36% post legalisation with safety-sensitive organisations such as warehouses and the construction industry most concerned.
The report highlights some challenges going forward such as drug testing in the workplace which has legal issues around it, as well as education and accommodation of cannabis in the workplace being of high concern.