The Cannabis Referendum and Impairment

Health and Safety / 22 October 2020
The Cannabis Referendum and Impairment

While we await the result, the nationwide discussion generated by the cannabis referendum has prompted many employers to look beyond the referendum and question what it would mean for their businesses if the outcome is “yes”.

From an employment and health and safety law perspective, the impairment risk presented by cannabis and other substances must be managed regardless of the substance’s legal status.

Our team recently held a webinar considering these issues which can be viewed here.

Beyond the Referendum: Impairment Risk

Many employers have been asking how they would be expected to judge impairment if cannabis were legalised. However, impairment itself cannot be tested for and is difficult to judge, given the differing effects of substances on different people. In our view the focus is on managing the risk of impairment.

Effective workplace drug and alcohol policies are crucial tools for employers in managing the risk of impairment presented by a range of substances. These policies should clearly outline:

  • the purpose of the policy;
  • the definition of impairment;
  • preventive and educative steps the employer will take;
  • training for managers and supervisors to identify impairment;
  • support for substance use disorders;
  • testing procedures, including cut-off levels; and
  • possible consequences for breach, including disciplinary action.

The policies must be operate in compliance with the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, the Employment Relations Act 2000, and the Privacy Act 1993/2020.

Employers are also questioning saliva testing which is now available. While it is exciting that there is a new method for substance detection, privacy issues, tester training and the reliability of results must be considered before using or relying on this method.

Message for Employers

Both lawful and unlawful substances present impairment risks in the workplace. Regardless of the cannabis referendum outcome, the discussion generated is a good reminder to businesses to ensure they have the tools available to identify and deal with this risk.

As health and safety experts, we able to provide advice about drug and alcohol policies, including implementing or updating these, and offer a fixed price of $500 (plus GST/disbursements) to review and advise on changes, or $1,000 (plus GST/disbursements) for a new policy and initial advice on implementation.

 Disclaimer: We remind you that while this article provides commentary on employment law, health and safety and immigration topics, it should not be used as a substitute for legal or professional advice for specific situations. Please seek legal advice from your lawyer for any questions specific to your workplace.

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