Edmonton prepares for possible impact of legalized marijuana
'So often in government we are reacting to things, instead of getting in front of things'
The Edmonton Chamber of Commerce is already working on a policy to deal with the impact that legalized marijuana could have in the workplace.
The federal government has promised to table legislation this spring but it could take much longer for the bill to be studied and eventually passed into law.
"This is coming at us now, this is going to happen, there is going to be legalization of marijuana," said chamber CEO Janet Riopel.
"So this is something that has very much hit our radar, and especially in safety-sensitive workplaces, employers have said marijuana use is inconsistent with safe work places."
The chamber represents 2,400 businesses, and Riopel said they've heard from a number of members who are concerned about what lies ahead.
"The two areas that we are hearing concerns about are employers rights," Riopel said. "You know, to deal with an employee, and what kind of action are they able to take in the event of an impairment or [someone] under the influence of marijuana.
"Then, employers want to know what employees rights are. Because employees have a right to a safe working environment."
City council also working on the issue
Edmonton city council is also preparing for the coming changes.
Coun. Mike Nickel brought forward a motion in November asking the city to look into the possible impacts of legalization.
"So often in government we are reacting to things, instead of getting in front of things," Nickel said.
"When we are trying to play catch up, that's when the negative effects of any kind of policy tend to hit the streets first. And with the potential legalization of marijuana, it's clear we want to get in front of this issue, not behind it."
Nickel he wants to issues such as proximity of dispensaries to schools to be spelled out in the city's bylaws before pot becomes legal.
"We have to look at what happened in other jurisdictions," Nickel said. "Don't reinvent the wheel. See what happened there, see what they did, and look at best practices.
"Then we put it in an Edmonton context, to see how it fits us and we can tailor-make our solutions that way."
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said key objectives of any legislation would be to keep marijuana out of the hands of children and to choke off profits to organized crime.
A task force appointed by the government to study the issue recommended in December that sales be restricted to those 18 and older, with a personal possession limit of 30 grams.
A report on the issue is due to come before Edmonton city council on Feb. 14.
Riopel said the chamber's policy will be completed within a few months.
"Our process is that we will develop this policy and start to actively communicate it out," she said. "Through orders of government, and also out to our members, and the general public."