Contractors draw line in the dirt: 'Rules and tools' needed around pot legalization to prevent construction fatalities.

Author:Ross, Ian

The legalization of pot will put people's lives at risk in the workplace, according to the head of the largest association representing industrial, commercial, and institutional contractors in Ontario.

"If this becomes part of our mainstream lives, it's going to have a deadly impact," said Clive Thurston, president of the Ontario General Contractors Association (OGCA).

His group is campaigning to inform provincial cabinet ministers, bureaucrats and the public about the health and safety implications due to the coming federal legalization of marijuana next July.

Instead of construction workers ducking out for a cigarette, they could be taking a pot break once marijuana becomes legal on July 1, 2018.

For Thurston, it's too much, too soon.

In his eyes, legalizing marijuana is not fact-based decisionmaking.

"This is not about health and safety. This is a political football that makes everybody feel good and look good," he said. "It's got nothing to do with the law. This is simply theatrics and pandering to the crowd. When you do that, bad things happen."

The Ontario government was the first province to announce a framework in early September for the retail distribution of cannabis through the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, along with a minimum age of 19 for buying, possessing and consuming of recreational pot.

The province indicated the use of recreational marijuana will be prohibited in public places and workplaces.

For Thurston, this is only lip service as Ontario contractors scramble to put together workplace policies to deal with employees who use cannabis recreationally.

Thurston wants government to come forward with specific "rules and tools" for employers for when the July legalization date comes.

"We don't have a strong enough ability to control this. We don't have the rules in place," said Thurston.

"We already have drug policies we're going to expand but this isn't about somebody who's developed an illegal substance dependency. This is somebody using a legal substance that they don't have to tell us they're on.

"They have to tell us if they're on medication or if they're an alcoholic or drug user, and if they don't tell us, we can't help them, and that's when people's lives are put at risk. But there are no such rules around cannabis."

Thurston said if workers disclose they are struggling with alcohol or drugs, employers will do their best to help them.

But there are court cases between companies and workers using medical marijuana...

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