Prepare farm plan to mitigate risk around marijuana use

The legalization of marijuana in Canada will pose safety issues for employers because there is no test to determine impairment

EDMONTON — Marijuana and dangerous workplaces do not mix, delegates were told at the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association’s annual conference in Edmonton this month.

Dan Demers, a senior manager with CannAmm Occupational Testing services, noted effects linger for 24 hours beyond the acute period of use and days longer for chronic users, disrupting signals in the body and brain.

“What you do on your own time does matter in certain occupations that are complex and dangerous,” he said, citing farms as among the most hazardous industries in Canada.

“It can impact the ability to remember information and react to emergencies.”

Demers said it presents management challenges for employers, noting that today’s cannabis is much more potent than in past and there is no reliable testing for impairment from marijuana use.

“You can’t clear one for work, because there is no science,” said Demers.

Marijuana needs to be managed differently than alcohol.

“At .08, you’re completely drunk with alcohol, at .02, you are considered impaired.”

“With cannabis, we don’t know how it works,” he said.

“Marijuana vs. alcohol, it’s apples and hubcaps, they’re so different.

Getting ahead of the impending legalization of marijuana in Canada next year will help mitigate risks. That includes getting educated on marijuana, implementing safety plans, addressing its use and assessing your farm’s risk.

Roberta Smith of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment shared her experience with growing operations in her state where marijuana use has been legal since 2012.

She said studies to address it in the workplace have largely focused on the plants and how they look for the retail markets rather than on the health and safety of workers.

Allergens and sensitivities from the turpenes and moulds, the prevalence of THC and the presence of carbon dioxide have been noted in addition to workers’ re-petitive movements when cutting plants.

The speakers agreed more study is needed to determine effects from daily exposure and handling.

Demers said it’s a fairly new industry without occupational health and safety and best practices in place.

“Getting home safe is the thing that really matters.”

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